Compromise will hurt services
Conflicting statements from the Government and the unions over the last few days have left most of us in a state of some confusion. The fact that they are talking again, rather than issuing tit-for-tat hollow threats, is to be welcomed, but the subject and focus of these talks are something to be wondered at.
A number of weeks ago I wrote about a campaign run by the public service unions that was disingenuous at best, and at worst cynical and dishonest. I won’t go over old ground, but the campaign in question featured stock images of a fictitious sick baby (‘Laura’) and the claim that the child needed services more than the Government needed to cut them.
And what has happened since? One public service strike, which caused a lot of hassle (for non-public service parents in particular, many of whom lost a day’s pay in order to stay at home and mind their kids). Widespread flooding across the country, throughout which public service workers have been admirably diligent and dedicated. And now, talks which have seemingly resulted in a decision not to cut their pay, but to cut the amount of time they work.
I may be getting something wrong here, but will this not impact directly on the level of services being offered to ‘Laura’ and others like her?
It’s not fair to blame public sector workers for the disaster the country is in. And if you follow this line of reasoning, it’s not fair to cut their pay either. But companies across the country have already done this, and private sector workers, most of whom did not get any great benefit from the boom, have already taken the pain.
I have great admiration for most public servants. I could never be a nurse, or a teacher – I simply don’t have those skills. But the unions are doing their members a disservice by talking out of both sides of their mouths.
Unions represent their members. They do not represent anyone else – sick babies, old people or flood victims. This is evidenced by the proposal to cut days worked, which will have a clear and major impact on services provided, especially those in key front line areas, where staff are already stretched.
The Government and unions have been uniquely short-sighted in seeing this as a solution. As one private sector friend of mine suggested yesterday, why not reduce public sector sick pay to the statutory level that private sector workers have? This would decrease the amount of absenteeism and make a hug saving. Some imagination would not go amiss.
Another public sector strike would merely have served to deepen the divide between public and private sector workers, when we really are in this together. Let’s just hope a more imaginative and equitable solution can be found.