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austerity measures

Are you on strike next week? Review my thoughts on industrial action….

I had a text this week from one of my children‘s schools – it’s going to be closed for a day next week due to industrial action.

Trying hard to be relaxed about next week's industrial action....

So as a self-employed worker, I cannot work that day because my child will be at home on a school day. As it happens, I was planning to have that day for boring stuff like house work any way. Now I’ll have a little helper.

But I still felt put out, inconvenienced, cross.

 

But it made me reflect on the day of action next week that seems increasingly likely to go ahead. I’m feeling very torn over it, to be honest.

I absolutely defend the right to protest. It’s part of what makes us a democracy and I do always find it very hard to cross a picket line – in fact I don’t think I’ve ever done so.

I’ve also been on strike myself, as a journalist, back in the early 1990s in Bath.

It was a very unpleasant experience – we were abused verbally and spat at more than once. It reminded me of my grandfather who often talked about taking part in the 1926 General Strike and being spat on as he, and others, marched down the Wellsway in Bath. I didn’t believe him. Now I know he was telling the truth.

In the 1990s,  we felt strongly about newspapers introducing personal contracts for each individual journalist and abandoning the structured system of levels where you moved up the pay scale gradually. We won a short-term concession but over the subsequent years the personal contract system was introduced,  by the back door.

How do I feel now 20 years later. The truth is, very different.

Striking over less generous pension settlements is very hard to swallow when you’ve worked most of your life in the private sector and you know that your pension income will be very low.

Many people in the public sector will say, I know, that they’ve paid a high amount into a pension for many years. So have I some of the time – when I’ve earned enough. But I could not hope to have the kind of pension that many public service workers will have even if these proposed changes come in.

There will also be the argument that if you work in the public sector you earn less than in the private sector. Really? Possibly in some sectors but not in the media. I’ve worked in both sectors for periods of time and I’ve always been paid more in the public sector.

So I still feel torn by it all. I can’t quite bring myself to condemn the strikes because I know so many good people who work in the public sector and who do a fantastic job for others. But I also know people who frankly would struggle in a more competitive environment.

What I do know is this – look to Greece and learn. Cuts have limits. People will take to the streets and will reject austerity measures eventually, no matter what the political or economic argument. The ordinary man will, if pushed hard enough, take action and say enough is enough. Do we want that to come here?

As a journalist, a working person, a human being I’m watching and wondering….

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