The Telegraph reports that Prime Minister’s advisers believe that widespread industrial action over cuts can be avoided if public sector workers are offered a deal over pensions.
The Chancellor has set out his intention to cut almost £100 billion from public spending over five years, freezing pay for millions of public sector staff and sacking thousands of others. Unions have warned of coordinated strikes and other protests to resist the cuts, which experts have predicted could result in 700,000 people losing their jobs. The Government is also seeking to cut the cost of what Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has called “gold-plated” public sector pensions.
Some senior figures, however, believe that the prospect of a deal on pensions could be used to lessen union opposition to spending cuts elsewhere. One idea is to give the unions seats on a review of public sector pensions led by John Hutton, the former Labour Cabinet minister.
Richard Balfe, Mr Cameron’s trade union “envoy”, suggested that pensions could be used as a “lollipop” to soften union anger. “Public-sector pensions are like lollipops for kids. You decide what sort of lollipop you’re going to give, and then you work out how you are going to pay for it. It’s perfectly possible to maintain public-sector pensions at their current level, if you make some fairly modest alterations to employee contributions.”
Mr Balfe, a former Labour MEP, said that most trade union leaders would take a “pragmatic” view of the spending cuts, but warned that some would be more confrontational than others. The Public and Commercial Services Union would be the most militant, he predicted.
“They represent a lot of civil servants who are going to lose their jobs,” he said. “There probably will be trouble in the heartlands like Newcastle where all the benefits staff are. But this is a dispute that has to be won.”
When I said “Hobson’s choice” what I really meant to say was that this is a straight choice between eating shit and eating shite.
Balfe, a turncoat who left the Labour party in a fit of pique and not for any ideological reasons, certainly knows how to insult. So major decisions are like lollipops and we public servants are children, attracted by bright shiny things? As for beating the PCS, I wonder whether he has fantasies of doing to PCS and other public service unions what Thatcher and her minions did to the NUM. Perhaps he will arrange for the creation of a UDM type association: SPS springs to mind - Society of Pusillanimous Sycophants. They do have a model in the Immigration Service Union aka the Impotent Scabs Union