Richard Seymour writing in Comment is Free gives a useful analysis of the looming confrontation between the Con Dem Government and public sector unions over pensions and other austerity measures. However it is marred by an ill informed reference to UNISON having ‘thus far retreated from outright conflict with the government’ http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/14/nut-atl-vote-unionised-public-sector-workers
This comment typifies an ultra left failure to recognise that in the real world most UNISON members are directly employed by local and not national government. And as reported to last week’s NEC, UNISON currently has over 30 disputes involving 30,000 members including strikes of strategic importance well beyond local disputes in Councils such as Barnet and Southampton.
And as far as conflict with the government is concerned Seymour fails to credit UNISON’s high profile campaigning against cuts in general and the health and social care bill in particular.
Notwithstanding these points Seymour’s conclusion is a sound one. The aggressive posturing of Cabinet Office Francis Maude in response to the ballot results belies the Coalition Government’s weakness:
“It seems extraordinary that a government as electorally fragile and ideologically weak as this one should knowingly provoke such a wide-ranging conflict with so many different sectors of society. The government may calculate that, if they ride out the crisis that their policies create, policing its effects, then all parties to the coalition will gain the credit when growth is eventually restored to the economy and the country returns to the polls in four years' time. Alternatively, they may have bet on the union leaders being too cautious and conservative to risk a war with the government.
The trouble is that the pressure from workers for action has become impossible to ignore, and the workers they're picking on are in a strategically privileged position since the infrastructures they maintain are central to the efficient working of the economy”
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