Back in May we wrote about the looming winter of discontent (PDF). Public sector pay costs have rocketed in recent years, with a 34.9 per cent rise in public spending on pay above the average earnings index. Despite that, over the same period, workers in the public sector have gone on strike 20 times as often as those in the private sector.
Now the brakes are having to be put on public sector pay and that is likely to lead to massive strike action over the coming winter. The Telegraph reports that a range of strikes are expected:
"Meanwhile several unions are actively consulting their members over plans to strike. The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union is to ballot its 300,000 members on a "rolling programme of industrial action" set to last from November to February.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT), which has a quarter of a million members, is also set to vote over possible strike action in November, following its first national strike for 21 years in the spring.
And more than 600,000 local government workers from Unison and 30,000 college lecturers belonging to the University and College Union could also launch co-ordinated action this winter."
If politicians had gone into this process thinking more than a few years in advance it would have been obvious that a boom in public sector pay would lead, inexorably, to a bust with huge consequences for public sector labour relations. Had they stuck to more modest rises throughout the period we wouldn't be facing these strikes and staff morale would be higher.