England’s public sector trade unions, some of the hardest line defenders of the blue social model anywhere on earth, are taking a no holds barred approach to PM David Cameron’s public sector reforms, promising “long and hard and dirty” resistance which could threaten the 2012 London Olympics. The Economist reports:
The casus belli is the government’s bid to reform public-sector pensions, which will see workers pay more in contributions and retire later…
The angry unions could…inflict enormous disruption at a vulnerable time for the economy, ranging from mass walkouts to “smart” strikes aimed at specific services at particular times. Next summer’s Olympic games could be targeted. Besides those who have already signalled their intent to make trouble, other unions could join in. The Fire Brigades Union has said it will ballot, too.
Ministers are confident that the public will side with them in any showdown. Most voters work in the private sector, where employer-sponsored, defined-benefit pensions are becoming a luxury. Retiring at 60, as many state workers currently do, is also unusual outside the state sector (the government wants to raise the age to 66).
Many observers credit Britain’s recovery from its long postwar decline to Margaret Thatcher’s defiance of the labor unions. The Cameron government has bet the ranch on a series of education reforms and budget cuts that are more sweeping than anything the Iron Lady ever put through; it must now hope that history will repeat itself.