Minister lays down law to unions threatening ‘strike’ lasting months

The rhetoric of the trade union bullies remains as defiant as ever.

After all the misery they have inflicted on the public over recent weeks, they now talk of escalating their industrial action in the New Year rather than backing down.

Typical of this pose of intensifying militancy was the performance of Paul Nowak, who gave a round of media interviews on Thursday to mark his arrival as the new leader of the Trade Union Congress.

Often sounding like an outdated caricature of a confrontational union boss, Nowak warned that the strikers are planning to co-ordinate their walkouts in an attempt to maximize the disruption.

“In some cases that might mean unions taking strike action on the same day. In other cases it will be a rolling wave of industrial action,” he said.

As usual, there was the empty claim that the workers had been “left with no choice” because of the Government’s refusal to negotiate “sensibly”, code for surrendering to unaffordable demands.

Nowak also wallowed in a culture of victimhood as he wheeled out the argument that union members like nurses are so badly paid that they have to use food banks, although no convincing evidence has been produced to back this up.

But all this bellicosity cannot disguise the mounting weakness of the unions. The strikes may be exasperating, but they have broken neither the government nor the public.

In fact, as they drag on, the stoppages are not only becoming less effective but are also revealing the low productivity and restrictive practices of the heavily-unionised
public-sector workforce.

The classic example of this can be found in the walkout on Thursday by Border Force officials belonging to the Public and Commercial Services union.

They thought their action would bring our airports to a halt, but just the opposite happened, with border controls operating far more smoothly than usual. That reality completely nullifies the threat of further Border Force strikes and should serve as a catalyst for the wholesale reform of the service.

Other strikes are also losing their sting.

Again, the main achievement of the rail turmoil is to make the case for major change on the network, while the impact of walkouts by medical professionals in the NHS was hard to distinguish from the usual atmosphere of permanent crisis and staff shortages.

At the same time, the teaching unions are now bleating that their strike ballots could be disrupted by the postal workers’ industrial action, a rich irony.

The fact is that the troublemakers are in desperate trouble.

Full of self-righteous fury, they have taken their members down a dead end and will soon have to make an ignominious about-turn.

They are deluding themselves if they think we are heading back to the 1970s, when the militants could hold the country to ransom.

Trade union membership has halved since 1979.

No longer the authentic voice of the working-class, the movement is now largely the voice of the public-sector payroll eager to defend its privileges like generous pensions, longer holidays, job security and shorter hours.

Nor are the Government showing any signs of caving in, especially now that large parts of the state workforce are demonstrating what poor value they provide for taxpayers.

As Ministers pointed out Thursday, it would cost £28billion to give the entire public sector a pay increase at the rate of inflation, a colossal sum that would be far better spent on improved services or targeted recruitment.

As they contemplate their next moves, the unions have once more shown themselves to be anachronistic dinosaurs.

They thought they were heading for domination. But these pitiful strikes have created their hour of reckoning.



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