Unions still in denial over the scale of the fiscal crisis

September 03, 2010 4:43 PM

Yesterday afternoon PCS announced that during the conference season they will be campaigning against government cuts. They argue that “most of the country believes that public services need investment not drastic cuts” and “Many politicians take the opposite view”. And they are hoping to dispel what they describe as myths politicians believe about civil and public servants - such as gold-plated pensions and well-paid faceless bureaucrats.

Well firstly it is false to say that most of the country believes that even more “investment” in public services is needed rather than cuts. YouGov polling for Demos several months back revealed that the last government lost voters at the general election because the public recognise the need for cuts and more polling by YouGov for left foot forward showed that the general public opposes more influence for the trade unions. Presumably because the trade unions have got it wrong on the single most important issue facing Britain – that is the need to curb the growing national debt.

If the national debt is going to be tackled public sector reform is absolutely vital. PCS have fought a battle in the high court regarding redundancy pay, defending the current Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS), which, under existing rules, entitles civil servants to severance payouts worth as much as six years’ salary. The redundancy scheme is so expensive that many ministries have pools of hundreds of employees who do not have allocated work but are not sacked because it is too expensive. Public sector pensions also need reform if they are going to be sustainable. The liability for public sector pension liabilities is estimated to exceed £1 trillion.

So are cuts really about punishing public sector workers based on myths? No, it’s about reforming a system that is unsustainable. And that is why the unions’ campaign against cuts will and should fail. 

Yesterday afternoon PCS announced that during the conference season they will be campaigning against government cuts. They argue that “most of the country believes that public services need investment not drastic cuts” and “Many politicians take the opposite view”. And they are hoping to dispel what they describe as myths politicians believe about civil and public servants - such as gold-plated pensions and well-paid faceless bureaucrats.

Well firstly it is false to say that most of the country believes that even more “investment” in public services is needed rather than cuts. YouGov polling for Demos several months back revealed that the last government lost voters at the general election because the public recognise the need for cuts and more polling by YouGov for left foot forward showed that the general public opposes more influence for the trade unions. Presumably because the trade unions have got it wrong on the single most important issue facing Britain – that is the need to curb the growing national debt.

If the national debt is going to be tackled public sector reform is absolutely vital. PCS have fought a battle in the high court regarding redundancy pay, defending the current Civil Service Compensation Scheme (CSCS), which, under existing rules, entitles civil servants to severance payouts worth as much as six years’ salary. The redundancy scheme is so expensive that many ministries have pools of hundreds of employees who do not have allocated work but are not sacked because it is too expensive. Public sector pensions also need reform if they are going to be sustainable. The liability for public sector pension liabilities is estimated to exceed £1 trillion.

So are cuts really about punishing public sector workers based on myths? No, it’s about reforming a system that is unsustainable. And that is why the unions’ campaign against cuts will and should fail. 

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