Having been critical of Liberal Vision's approach towards the Party it claims to support yesterday, I have been challenged to debate with them, rather than 'griping' as one of their Deputy Director puts it.
So, I had a look at their latest posting, and was interested to see that it addressed industrial relations. Given that I'm a fairly cynical member of a public sector union, PCS, what did Liberal Vision's contributor, Leslie Clark, have to say?
"Despite the recent results of Mugabesque proportions that were widely interpreted as an endorsement of anger against the Coalition..."
The use of ‘Mugabesque’, redolent as it is of individuals coerced into voting through fear, hardly reflects the reality of those pesky Trade Union ballots. As a public sector union member, that’s an image that is rather unfamiliar to me. Union ballots are run by the Electoral Reform Society’s ballot services arm, and I vote secretly in the comfort of my own home.
And yes, there is anger about pay and conditions. Three years of pay freezes have reduced living standards amongst civil servants, all of whom are doing jobs required by the Government, and most of whom are earning less than £25,000 per annum. Yes, argue about whether there should be as many of them as there are, or whether their tasks are really necessary, but his callous sarcasm directed at individuals struggling to raise their families and keep a roof over their heads indicates where his motives actually point towards. It should be unsurprising at a time when inflation is running at 4.5% and real incomes are falling by almost as much in the public sector that militancy is on the increase.
Add to that the proposal that civil servants make bigger contributions towards their pension - which implies another cut in real terms income, despite the fact that the value of the pension was taken into account when deciding pay scales and pay increases, the cynicism of his attitude knows no bounds.
"It goes without saying that introducing a minimum turnout wouldn’t drastically curb the fundamental right to withdraw one’s labour."
Of course it does, he wouldn't recommend it otherwise. The use of the warm and fuzzy word 'modernise' is a tactic beloved of all weasels in a tight corner. So, why not be honest here, public sector strikes are bad because they make the lives of people like Leslie Clark slightly less inconvenient.
His proposal to require minimum turnouts for strike ballots does two things – it incentives opponents of any proposal to simply stay at home, rather than engage, an action likely to entrench the sort of one-sided outcomes that so upset him, and it reduces the freedom of the individual union member to choose whether or not to participate as, under his proposals, union officials would need to actively drive up turnout by pressurising members to vote, creating the very scenario he appears to imagine exists now.
And he assumes that union members act like sheep, unable to think or act for themselves. Just because unions representing 750,000 public sector workers have voted for strike action doesn’t mean that 750,000 public sector workers will be missing on 30 June. I for one am expecting to turn up to do a day’s work as usual, and I’m guessing that I won’t be alone.
Strike action in the public sector is surprisingly rare. Giving up a day’s pay, plus a day of pension entitlement, is not done lightly, especially when most of those doing so earn less than the average wage.
His inconsistent approach to democratic legitimacy merely serves to infer that freedom, in his view, only applies to those of whom he approves, and that is no freedom at all. But, of course, he is writing on the blog of an organisation which has no internal democracy, is criticial of the internal democracy of the political party it claims to support and sees no paradox in being a collective endeavour whilst seeking to place limits on the freedoms of other collective endeavours.