Unions offer to be reasonable on anything except the important stuff

The evidence is mounting day by day of quite how viciously the public sector trade unions intend to oppose the spending cuts that are now so essential to save the economy.

This week so far we have already seen the PCSU civil service union petulantly walk out on strike in protest at Government attempts to trim their excessively generous redundancy deals. Our report on Tuesday showed that public sector workers are 15 times more likely to strike than their private sector peers, despite their relatively comfortable pay, pension and perks. Yesterday the RMT voted in favour of strike action against Network Rail that may well scupper Easter weekend for millions of people.

Now, in the latest edition of Public Servant magazine, Brendan Barber of the TUC makes naked threats of "conflict" against a possible Cameron Government. Ever the reasonable man, Brendan starts off full of sweetness and light about a "business-like relationship", "proper dialogue" and "constructive" engagement - as long as Cameron doesn't try to do anything about public spending or the EU.

So that's alright, then - Britain will be strike-free just as long as nothing is done to deal with the fiscal crisis or the democratic disaster.

This is the political equivalent of a bank robbery. "Nobody give us any trouble, and no-one's gonna get hurt" is the traditional refrain of people toting sawn-off shotguns and wearing ski masks, but it is now being deployed in the public finance debate by the head of the Trade Union movement.

Barber's comments are probably intended to be a political sop, allowing him to claim he has tried to be reasonable. However, offering to be reasonable on anything other than the important issues is not being reasonable at all. This is a timely reminder of exactly how tough the battles ahead are going to be - Barber and the rest of the TUC are going to fight tooth and nail to stop any Government, regardless of who wins the election, from sorting out the public finances.

We need to steel ourselves. They are offering a choice between strikes or stagnation. We must brave out the strikes and take the medicine, or Britain will become very sick indeed.

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