Large scale public sector strike hits UK today for protesting government’s state pension reforms (BBC news/photos/the Independent/Daily Mail). 20,000 took part in the main demonstration in central London and protests were held in around 80 towns and cities across the country. Public services, such as schools, passport controls, courts, prisons, driving test centres, and job centers, has been disrupted. Unions said about 750,000 workers joined the strike, though the government said about 100,000 or one in five civil servants walked out. 11,000 out of 21,000 (or at least 40%) schools across England and Wales, were closed or partially closed. Even over 90% police staff who handle emergency 999 calls walked out!
The government insists everyone must share the pain as it cuts £80 billion from public spending to reduce Britain’s huge deficit. The government plan is cutting civil service jobs and benefits, raising the state pension age from 65 to 66, increasing the public sector workers’ contribution to pensions and reducing their retirement payouts. The official figures showed that every working family in Britain is currently liable for £13,500 to cover teachers’ pensions – massive 90% increase over the past decade. Private sector workers have to bear with much higher burden than civil workers and must pay a third of their salary to match civil worker benefits (Daily Mail article). It sounds a bit unfair to me.
Of course everyone hates to loose benefit you are expecting to receive. But I just can’t agree with such a large scale disruption, causing public a huge inconvenience even they have a right to, because they are paid by tax payers’ money! I understand these actions if they are unreasonably taken away their rights to have basic quality of life, but it seems to me that they are quite privileged, in compare to private sector which have been going through the tough time without the government’s backup.
Thank you for your comment. I am aware of that the problem is more complicated and I am not the most appropriate person to analyse this issue (I am not British, journalist, scholar, or politician). However, the same problem occurs in many countries including other European countries as well as my country Japan under this economic circumstance as you know and this is rather universal problem. I read other articles as well as Daily Mail, and the Daily Mail article doesn’t represent all my view. However, not all people share the same opinion and it’s important to know the different side of view. I respect people engaged in public sector jobs and hope they can have decent pay to have decent living. However public sector workers are paid by tax payers’ money, and have to suffer some pain when the country’s finance is bad, as well as other areas paid by the government such as welfare, NHS etc. There is no other choice if you want to improve the countries balance sheet. Yes the government should tackle with tax evasion as well, but the country may loose international competition if charging big tax, as many companies avoid UK for headquarters and branches to cheaper taxing countries like Switzerland. It sounds unfair, but it is a biproduct of globalisation and the government has to be very careful.
Probably still my view is not fair, but the problem I have about the strike is that general public can’t understand the issues by a demonstration, just hitting the street with placards and shouting. We need numbers, graph, comparison, economic theory or whatever to justify why the cut is not reasonable, and at the same time suggestion how to improve the finance, rather than usual chant of “tax the rich”, they must share some pain as well, though.
It’s not quite as easy as this…. Why not talk about the tax evasion on behalf of large business, I live in a family where everyone works in the public sector and trust me it isn’t all rosy, it was NOT the public sector that caused the financial crisis. The Daily Mail is really not the best newspaper to obtain reliable and un biased stats because most likely they will be skewed to back up their disgusting, racist and homophobic views.
Hello again and thank you for your response.
I give 100% respect to some people working in public sector are very altruistic and in a way patriotic, wanting to contribute to the society without big monetary return. But in reality, ideal doesn’t bring you a food and water on the table and doesn’t pay for your rent and utility. Everyone knows that public sector workers don’t get paid as well as financial sector or professionals such as doctors and solicitors. But I feel like many public sector workers comparing only to high earning private sector workers like bankers or workers at big corporations, but they are not a majority in a society. In fact many of the small companies and shops have to go through tough competition every day and vulnerable under certain economic circumstances. Public sector workers may get less paid but psychologically they are protected – fear of loosing job anytime is not very nice feeling and quite depressing. Even the bankers going through harsh competition and ugly politics sometimes, and can get redundancy if they can’t produce profits (my friend’s husband who worked for a big bank got depression and quit the job). it’s up to you to choose money or peace of mind.
As I wrote back to other person’s comment, I have a problem in the way of protest in general, not only public sector strike but others as well. To be honest, general public don’t understand the issues well and the unions and demonstrators fail to explain us what makes them so upset, other than showing their angers and giving us huge inconvenience. I think there should be a better way to get the public sympathy, let’s say by collecting a petition, handing out brochure, or creating newspaper/TV ads with the money they spent for balloons and placards just cursing Cameron and against cut without explanation.
Unfortunately, public sector is the easy target for the government because the government and the general public are their ‘boss’, and if the country’s money run out and in huge debts, there is no other way but to cut the public expenses. If the government can successfully manage the nation’s finance better, that’s the time public sector workers demand to get more share – I really hope the time will come soon.
I assume that you are not in London anymore? Thank you for checking my blog, among hundreds of thousands of blogs in London – I probably make a lot of mistake in English grammer and maybe a bit strange sometime. But it is a great encouragement for me :-)
I give a great respect to the people doing very important but undervalued. Our everyday living wouldn’t be sustained without them, and I want them to have a decent life. However, I have a problem in the way they protest. To be honest, general public other than the ones in public sector don’t necessarily understand the issues well and the unions and demonstrators fail to explain us why the cut was so evil, other than showing their angers and giving us huge inconvenience (students might be pleased to have an extra day-off but not their innocent and hardworking parents). Maybe collect a petition, making brochure to hand out or newspaper/TV ads with the money they spent for balloons and placards just cursing Cameron?
You’re absolutely right, I (and many others who chose the public sector) knew the conditions before starting work – the point is that these conditions are now being changed dramatically and this is what the protests are about.
Of course job security is a motivation for some, but many others are motivated by a desire to give something back to the country (rather than, say, make lots of money) – teaching is a classic example.
Having devoted many years of one’s life to such a job, it’s very frustrating to always be the first target when money gets tight. But it’s even more frustrating to be portrayed as an elite set of well paid and highly privileged time wasters who need to join the real world, when this is so far removed from the truth. Personally, I still love my job but I simply can’t afford to keep it. And note that I didn’t claim the private sector was “better”, just better paid (and I raised this point since many of the current attacks on public sector workers aim to show how well paid we are, despite the evidence to the contrary!). I work with a large number of highly skilled and motivated people, many of whom could earn much more in the private sector – the country would be worse off without them and probably will be soon…
I probably wouldn’t have bothered commenting if I hadn’t spent a lot of yesterday hearing (mostly worse) comments similar to yours – it’s much easier to comment on a blog than phone up a radio show! I certainly didn’t get particularly upset by anything you wrote – you’re entitled to your opinion, I just felt like adding another point of view. I think much of what is reported in papers like the Mail and much of what is said by the government in these situations is taken at face value by a lot of people and I think this is wrong.
BTW I really enjoy your blog – I miss living in London, it’s good to feel like I’m keeping in touch with the place even if it’s mostly via the internet!
I really like your blog, but cannot agree with your wondering why do people go into the public sector as opposed to the private? It is about values/ ethics – people want to make some kind of a difference. I get a bit tired of many well paid middle class friends moaning about public sector – quite frankly people working in the public sector do some of the most overlooked and under valued jobs in our society that most people take for granted.
I have to admit that I am a foreigner and don’t know the system well. It may be a mistake to quote from Daily Mail – I am not the Daily Mail reader, but sometimes use their web articles because they use a lot of good photos. But people have different opinions and how see things. Other people believe that the Guardian isn’t neutral either and has an agenda though it may be different from the Guardian. People choose a paper who write whatever they want to believe.
I understand that public sector workers are underpaid than private sector. Then why they work at public sector? If you work for someone, you should know the work condition and contract before you start to work. You seem to be quite educated and well qualified – why didn’t you get private sector job from the beginning, if the private sector is much better? I think everything is demand and supply. If nobody want to work at public sector, the government has no choice but to give the workers better pay and benefits. However, at this moment when your country has huge national deficit, you have to make your country’s balance sheet healthy first, though it causes some pain to the people, if you see in a long run. If the government can’t cut public sector jobs and pension, other people have to pay the price. Some people believe to tax the rich people or bankers is the solution, but if you do, probably many of them simply run out of UK or avoid to come to UK.
In my country, some people want to work at public sector because theoretically public sector would never go administration (actually one city went bankrupt…) and relatively safe, rarely getting redundancy as private sector, not because it is a well-paid job. That’s a great advantage.
I am sorry if you are disturbed what I wrote but just think it is just am opinion from who is a foreigner and not in public sector.
Anyway, thanks for taking time to write your comment, and giving some information – I learned a lot. Good luck for your new job!
The suggestion that public sector workers are in some way better off than
those in the private sector is quite frankly absurd. The comparison, for example, of average private sector salaries against average teacher salaries is just not valid – the average private sector employee is just not qualified to teach. There are vacancies in the public sector, if the rewards are so great why aren’t people leaving the private sector? The answer is that comparable positions in the private sector earn much more money!
I’m a public sector worker and I’m just about to leave my position to take up a slightly less difficult job in the private sector. I will almost double my pay,
and that’s only the start. I’ve had one pay rise in the last 7 years, in a couple of years the pay differential will be even bigger… Of course I will have to make a bigger contribution to my pension, but the cost is swamped by the extra pay!
Oh and quoting the daily mail is probably best avoided – they have their own agenda and rarely present a balanced view!