Cameron’s war

30th November, 2011 4:55 pm

We marched through the streets of London today. Hundreds of thousands of us. Trade unionists of all kinds. Some alone. Some with friends. A huge number with their families and children. As the marches began across the country, David Cameron was busy lambasting millions when he attacked Ed Miliband as “irresponsible, left wing and weak”.

Cameron’s rhetoric today and in recent weeks couldn’t be more out of tune with the dozens of public sector workers I spoke to today. Cameron talks about a fair and reasonable deal, but public sector workers don’t see a 3% tax on their earnings directed straight to the treasury as either fair or reasonable. Cameron talks about “union bosses”, but today I saw working families losing a day’s pay to stand up for themselves, people who had never been on strike before moved to oppose the obvious unfairness of plans that will penalise those who teach our children, keep our streets clean and provide our local services.

It’s also clear that Cameron is revelling in his attacks. He claims the negotiations are still ongoing, but at the same time argues that the deal on the table is the best he’s willing to offer. Providing no leeway for genuine negotiation, he’s goaded people into a strike. By hitting pay packets as well as pensions, and by going even further than his 1980s idols, he’s launched a war on public sector workers, and yet feigns surprise when they fight back.

It’s obvious that Cameron’s goal is no different to Thatcher’s in the 1980s. He wants to break the unions. He threatens the stick of harsher union laws without the carrot of real negotiation.

As Brendan Barber rightly noted on Left Foot Forward this morning, lollipop ladies are paying to cancel the bankers’ bonus tax. Rather than make those who caused the financial crisis pay their fair share, Cameron prefers to bash the low paid – as if too many teachers or nurses caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The Prime Minister has shown who’s side he’s on – he shouldn’t be surprised to see further action from those he’d prefer to penalise in response.

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  • Anonymous

    Sadly my marching days are over but two people did help me  and I went some of the way, sadly I cannot do the whole march as it’s  just to much, but the car horns were blowing and people were waving and calling out, even the £27,000 a year private school was on strike and closed, it was one of the best supported strike I’ve seen in many a year.

    And on top of that Miliband found some of his socialism.

    Not a bad day all around really.

  • GuyM

    Sorry to tell you Mark, but no one will care tomorrow and having strike after strike will only end up in the public (especially the private sector) hardening it’s view of the Unions.

    I want my mortgage rate kept low above paying anymore for the lollipop ladies pensions. Just as the Unions are allowed to be selfish in defence of their members interests, why can I not be selfish in defence of my interests?

  • charles.ward

    The coalition didn’t cancel the banker’s bonus tax after a year, Alistair Darling did.

    • Anonymous

      They have every chance of raising revenue from this lucrative area though,
      and yet seem so reluctant by comparison .

      I suspect not such an easy target.


      • GuyM

        rather than raising more than a bonus tax would by having a bank levy and leaving the bonus’ to be taxed at 50%?

        so you’d have a bonus tax, thus reducing the bonus pot and hence reducing the income tax take, rather than hit the banks with a levy and then those getting a bonus with the high tax rate?

        so the coalitionj is getting significantly more in taxation than Labour did yet it still doesn’t meet your desire for public floggings of bankers?

  • Cameron was vile at PMQs, and Ed was much more supportive of the strikes than I dared to hope. One of these men is on the side of ordinary working people, and it ain’t the one living at Downing Street.

    • mcfly

      and if you belive milliband is what planet are you on

  • Anonymous

    Thanks too Mark for showing such great support and being in amongst it.

    There’s no substitute for actually talking to people involved face to face!

    I think the public at large have to be kept onside; but there is every chance of that;
    the atmosphere also looked good spirited and a real strength of community.

    We all know someone involved as “normal” ordinary and hard working people,
    hardly the actions of “militants.”

    I was also pleased to hear Ed’s description, although very brief.
    Otherwise it sounded like a lot of jeering and tribalism in the HOC.

    I sometimes wonder of some of these people are even faintly in touch
    with ordinary working people, or what these changes could mean
    to their lives and futures.

    Have yet to see and hear much of the news coverage though;
    my son was off school today; but he had a lovely time!

    Thanks again, Jo.

    • Anonymous

      PS Any photos Mark?
      Would be good to see.


  • The problem with industrial relations and Cameron is that Cameron’s only previous experience of ‘negotiations’ is sorting out the wages of the gardener at his Oxfordshire mansion.

    • GuyM

      and his Director role at Carlton TV….. not quite as good a “tory toff” idiotic insult though

    • Anonymous

      he did not get a pension either.

  • Anonymous

    A good day for Cameron.

    The strikes fail to halt Heathrow and nearly half the schools are open.    And then he hits Red Ed for six at PMQs.

    • Bah Humbug

      Pin-sharp critique. Your school was obviously closed.

      • Anonymous

        He goes to an approved school obviously.

        • Half the schools? Where? Rural Dorset? Certainly not up here where they were pretty much all shut

          • Anonymous

            Carmarthenshire every single school was closed, and a large number of people were out  on the picket lines.

    • Anonymous

      But yesterday they were claiming it was going to be a disaster!

      Personally I think it’s good that contingency plans have worked;
      much of it probably arranged by the unions themselves.

      They have no desire to damage services; quite the opposite.

      I think part of all this is to defend the very services being hit by cuts,
      job losses and reductions in pensions.

      Someone’s got to do it!


    • What a silly , partisan comment. Half the schools were not open – 24% were; Cameron looking ill tempered and flusterred hardly “knocked EM for six at PMQs”. 

    • Anonymous

      So you think calling Ed red is somehow insulting on a Labour party site , poor think if you take your medication it will go away. Cameron now has to do more U Turns each and ever day even using red Eds spending plans.

      You will get better.

  • derek

    Over 500 protesters gathered at Danny Alexander Inverness office with cry’s of Danny, Danny, Danny,  out, out out! many had Danny mask’s on with pension swag-bags, Alexander is no longer welcomed by Scots and he would be well advised to stay clear of Scotland.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone who wants to know how awful the teachers’ pension fund is, should go on their website and type in some hypothetical figures.  At the lower end they’ll be getting a £70,000 lump sum and a pension of £25,000.  With the state pension they’ll have to get by in retirement on over £30,000 plus that paltry £70,000 cash in hand.  They must be struggling to pay their gas bill on that, and M&S meal deals will have to be given up in favour of Waitrose meal deals.

    What the Government is failing to communicate is the scale of employers’ contributions.  The average contribution of local taxpayers and businesses to local government pension funds is 18.4%.  That’s an astounding percentage, and makes it clear why these schemes are unaffordable.

    • Anonymous

      Both my parents are ex secondary school teachers and living
      on very modest pensions; as are their ex colleagues
      who they keep in touch with.

      This article was interesting too from a teacher currently in post:

      “I’m going on strike to make you show teachers some respect Mr Cameron;”
      Guardian, 29/11. (KT.) 

      Also, a physiotherapist in the NHS- excellent piece:

      “NHS strike: is change necessary? The case has not been made.”

      Guardian, 25/11.(DC.)

      I think these personal testimonials are a good idea to explain
      in detail what the issues are and what it’s like for people affected.

      Thanks, Jo.

    • Anonymous

      Who pays for the MPs and Ministers pensions.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        As they are employed by the public sector, we all do.

        Are they worth it, in comparison with all sorts of other public sector workers is a different question.

    • alex williams

      In the real world the lower end for teacher’s salaries at the end of their careers is not 60K which is roughly what would be required given your figures. But the point is that the current pension is not awful, but rather that the new pension would be considerably worse in relative terms ie you retired at the current retirement age. Now take you calculations and apply them to a non professional job in the public sector and see what you get.

      • alex williams

        Just to help below are calculations for someone at top of main teacher scale with additional performance points would get:

        Service used in calculation:

        38 years 0 days

        Salary used in calculation:


        Basic Pension:

        Your pension:


        Your Lump Sum in addition:


        Converted Pension: (for members with pensionable service on
        or after 1 January 2007)

        Maximum Tax-Free Cash:


        Maximum Pension Converted:


        Residual Pension:


        • alex williams

          Not to be sniffed at admittedly but please put your smears of misinformation elsewhere. Also note the recalculated scheme already negotiated in line with people living longer for those starting more recently, note they also have to work till 65 so would actually end up with a bit more than that.

  • But you don’t matter to us. You live in a safe Tory seat and won’t vote Labour. Leave the country if you wish – no problem to me

    • GuyM

      I’m a member of the private sector Mike, that body of people whom the Unions need on board if they want to continue this action.

      As a number of political commentators have said on TV today, that support already is minority and will almost certainly slip significazntly further if it carries on.

      As I said my mortgage payments > than public sector pensions. Selfish on both sides, so I’m happy taking my position.

  • I see the tory trolls have already been here. Freaks.

    Good article.  I dont work in the public sector but support you 100%.

  • Anonymous

    It’s not about individual bankers or workers; it’s about the amount of revenue that can be raised via financial institutions and some of the bigger businesses. Also shared responsibility across the board for those that can afford it.

    Efectively raiding people’s pensions in frontline services for example may have long term detrimental effects on quality of provision; demotivate and demoralize staff; and deter future recruits. It is not fair to pick on one group of low to modestly paid workers; especially when it’s the quality of vital services at stake.

    I happen to know personally  that some people working in the banking sector in the city are earning enormous salaries.I don’t blame them at all.
    It’s about the whole set up and lack of balance and equity between different working areas that is wrong.

    “We are paid too much, bankers confess in St.Paul’s survey…..”
    As politicians shift ground on high earners, City workers admit public sector gets raw deal.”

    Indy, 6/11.

    Thanks, Jo.

    • GuyM

      Well Jo, I have a couple of job specs that have come up for £100k plus roles in the financial services sector. Nothing like the levels of bankers mind you but not too shabby.  If I get any of them (and I probably won’t) I will not feel in the slightest bit bad about it, in fact I’ll feel I have worked hard in my careeer to get to a stage someone will pay me a good salary. Why should anyone feel guilty?

      You can either accept market rates set salaries or you can try politicians deciding what everybody earns and I can’t think of many worse things than the latter option.

      The problem you have is people down here in London are fairly aspirational and most don’t really care about bankers wages.

      If you look at polling regarding opinions on the St Pauls protesters the views of Londoners themselves are far more anti than generally across the country.

  • Anonymous

    I think lollipop ladies and gentlemen perform one one of the most important functions in society, as do many others providing vital services; and that matters far more to me
    than high paid people losing a few pennies here and there via taxes etc.

    It’s about addressing the real needs of society, not just catering for the priveleged few.

    There does need to be balance and perspective; it’s not an either/or situation.

    We all use public services; we are all interdependent on each other.

    • GuyM

      And I’m happy to say I don’t care for your and other public sector workers pension above my mortgage payments.

      Can I gently suggest that if you confronted most private sector workers with that stark reality i.e. keep pensions as they are and you are likely to increase borrowing further and push up interest rates and you’d get the same decision as mine.

      They might feel slightly bad about it and may even not want to admit publicly to holding those views, but hold them they will.

      I regard the unions and public sector workers as selfish, therefore I am very relaxed about being as selfishly self interested as they are.

    • jaime taurosangastre candelas

      “I think lollipop ladies and gentlemen perform one one of the most important functions in society…”

      What?  More important than ambulance crews, train drivers, the prime minister, driving instructors, air traffic controllers, research scientists, university lecturers, hospital porters, mental health professionals, pest control officers, or any one of about 10,000 more professions?

      Lollipop people do a good job in stopping the traffic and letting people cross roads safely, but it is beyond reason to claim that their function is among the most important in society.

      • Anonymous

        No, I happen to think road safety is fairly top of the agenda; in all its forms.

        Without zebra crossings and the people who man them during school times and the rush hour- likely much less safer.

        I hear some of this is being cut back due to council budgets and a lack of priority to the basics.

        I also stated clearly “as do others providing essential services.”

        Please don’t take my comments out of context or try to make into something it’s clearly not (AGAIN.)

        I wish to be able to comment on this site without you trying to pick apart by pedantics Jaime.

        I am asking you politely to interact with other posters please; of which there are many to choose, and I will respect your views from a distance.


  • “his Director role at Carlton TV” –  but this wasn’t in human resources, that’s the point.

    • GuyM

      Last I checked Prime Ministers don’t carry out negotiations in labour disputes, seems a bit of a waste of time to have the PM negotiating on loads of seperate pension schemes disputes.

      That’s why there are ministries and civil servants.

  • Anonymous

    Evening Mike,
    just about to sign off.

    Hope all’s well with you.


  • Anonymous

    They have been flogged, please for god sake flog me like that.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    Yesterday’s strike was a bit of a mixed bag, at least locally.

    My own hospital functioned fully effectively for critical cases.  We cancelled about 35 out patient appointments (nothing to do with A&E).  My department ran at 125% manning, due to volunteers.  I now have 2 nurses who actively want to come to A&E having spent the day with us.  We trained 8 nurses in the last three weeks (or in some cases, refresher training) in blood oxygen management.  Our workload today was about 89% of a normal Wednesday, but that is within 0.6 of one standard deviation for daily activity, so nothing exceptional.  Our drugs cost was 94% of average for a Wednesday, down to one patient.  Our labour cost was nominally 132% of average which is my fault as I double shifted, but as overtime is not claimed that will disappear.

    We had a smaller than normal team of ancilliaries, but it was workable.  I wheeled a patient to imaging, and she was a real comedian.  She really made me laugh.

    I am very pleased that none of my permanent team were on strike today, and even more with their personal engagement with the volunteers, mentoring them and working with them. Our throughput to MAU and General Surgery was more rapid than normal (feels like 10%, but I don’t own the other end of those figures).

    One small picket line at the entrance to hospital grounds.  I stopped to talk with some colleagues on the line, we fully respected each others positions, and shook hands.  As professionals, they were very happy that the hospital remained fully functional.

    • Anonymous

      Well people who cross picket lines when they do not have to  really have little to say, I mean you will accept if they win the pensions without fighting for it, we had words for people like that once upon a time.

      • jaime taurosangastre candelas

        Was that at me or members of my team, crossing a picket line?  If you really think that picketing is more important than A&E care, then we’ll go toe to toe on this specific issue.

    • derek

      As a former convenor and post holder, I’d certainly approach you for a few quiet words, Jaime, you don’t have a mandate to change NHS working practices? the idea that you should shovel around and openly suggest an end to over-time enhanced paid hours isn’t in your terms and condition and i’d also suggest that paid work is just that…”Paid”, I’ve no idea why you haven’t been constructively vetted on your outbursts?

      Personally, I’d have clamped you yonks ago!!!!

    • alex williams

      Not sure what your point is. Are you trying to get an award or trying to annoy people? I am glad that people in A & E did not suffer as a result of the strikes. Personally I drank 70% less cups of coffee and had 20% less cakes although that is 1.2 standard deviations from normal, but with such a small sample size to work from I’m not sure if it is significant. I also made up 50% of the statistics in this comment.

      • Anonymous

        To my knowledge Alex, all frontline departments were protected anyway,
        so it’s unlikely disruption was expected at the “critical” end of care delivery.

        From what I’ve read and heard via news channels and union announcements,
        they worked hard to provide contingency cover; and planned well ahead of time
        to protect the most vulnerable people.

        The other thing to consider, is that some professional health organizations are still planning to ballot their members for possible future strike action due to
        “non credible negotiations” so far; so yesterday was not the full picture.

        I guess a lot now depends on what is offered next.

        I do hope people will actually be listened to and taken seriously
        to avert future action.


  • But I don’t care about trying to convince you, or hitting you where it hurts when we return to power.
    As it happens, my partner probably earns more than you, but he chose not to cross a picket line yesterday and doesn’t complain about paying taxes

  • Anonymous

    Thank god they do not do sit in’s then

  • Anonymous

    Depends where you are obvious not earth.

  • Anonymous

    In fairness you have to say this chap is so nice you feel like giving him a bone and  combing his hair and buying him tip bits and de worming him, you find lap dogs are like this.

    Poor old Clarkson in trouble about shooting strikers in front of their families a more who made £1.8 million last year.

    • derek

      Clarkson isn’t fit for a public viewing or hearing! sack him, it’s ridiculous that this man is allowed on TV.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Guy, that’s interesting.

    I only have 5 mins right now, but just to say I lived in London for about 10 years in the 80’s and 90’s, and we had many friends who worked in different sectors, including banking, accountancy, stockbrokers,and business.

    This came about because my partner, who works in the energy industry was sharing a flat with different people along the way- so we used to have a lot of dinner parties!

    I used to hear a lot about the types of jobs they did and kept in touch with some; saw the lifestyles they were able to lead.There was no envy whatsover; these were just normal people happening to do a particular job.
    But even they were fairly amazed by the large sums of money involved; it was almost exchanged like water.
    They had some major criticisms too about the whole set up and how out of line in comparison, to say, people who worked in hospitals.


    • Anonymous

      Sorry, slightly lost train of thought here from earlier, but in response to Guy’s recent comment,
      I’d definitely agree with Alex’s point about the same principles being applied across all areas of work.

      Also Guy- you seem to have the perception that things are very different outside of London?
      Eg you said, “people are fairly aspirational.”

      I think they are everywhere Guy, but it also depends on opportunities available and the jobs market; skills training etc.

      Different areas have different characteristics and strengths.

      I’d like to see things opened up a whole lot more, and wider opportunities/access to training etc.

      Regarding banking etc, I do not undestand why such extortionate salaries as opposed  to say- research scientists?

      Just as a small anecdote; I once met someone in London who had spent many years studying biology, and acheived a Phd; but he told me “there’s no money it” and decided to become a stockbroker instead! He was earning absolute dosh loads…..I think it’s a very sad state of affairs; and he thought it was bizarre too.

      We could be losing some very good people in important fields of research to go abroad, or just give up and work below their capability.

      But what does the country need for its future; what balance of skills; that’s my big question.

      Thanks, Jo.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    It was me, Derek, not anyone else.  I’m authorised to do this.  I don’t get paid overtime, only a salary.  Labour costs are monitored for other reasons, not for pay.

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  • alex williams

    “I’ll feel I have worked hard in my careeer to get to a stage someone will pay me a good salary. Why should anyone feel guilty?”
    So why can a similar thing not be said for public sector workers? Also looking at our latest attempt to recruit a maths teacher, the package is clearly insufficiently tempting, perhaps the market would allow us to up the salary?

  • alex williams

    I consider the unwillingness of highly paid citizens to pay the full amount of tax due to offshore accounts, expense accounts etc equally selfish. Surely if everyone paid more tax this deficiet would soon disappear, or is it only when those employed from the public purse to do things for all our citizens, don;t want to see their benefits and income slashed that it becomes selfish? For goodness sake get a grip.

  • And as for your “tory toff” perception, well, the truth will out…


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