Monday, 17 January 2011

Vitriolic attack on public sector unions


Hugo Radice

Anyone with an interest, personal or scholarly, in the threat to public sector jobs, and the efforts of trade unions to defend them, should look at the vitriolic attack on public sector trade unions around the world in the latest issue of The Economist:

"Briefing: (Government) workers of the world unite!", The Economist vol.398 no.8175, 8 January 2011, pp.19-21

The article is an extraordinary mix of lies, distortions and contradictions. It is clearly designed as an ideological primer for the ruling classes and their mouthpieces in politics and the media as they embark on this phase of crisis resolution. It provides carefully selected 'facts' from around the world, in an analysis designed to appeal to, and reinforce, anti-worker and anti-union prejudice.

Some selected quotes:

"The public sector ... is a haven of security and stability. Many people have jobs for life and performance measures are rare. The result is a paradox: the typical public sector worker is better off than the people he is supposed to serve ..."

"Public-sector unions enjoy advantages that their private-sector rivals [sic] only dream about. As providers of vital monopoly services, they can close down entire cities. And as powerful political machines, they can help to pick the people who sit at the other side of the bargaining table."

"Unions have suppressed wage differentials in the public sector. They have extracted excellent benefits for their members. And they have protected underperforming workers from being sacked."

"Generous pensions have produced an epidemic of early retirement."

"The unions' influence extends to the size and nature of the public sector ... [They] are relentless in demanding more resources and more personnel, which conveniently translate into more members and more dues."

"Public-sector unions combine support for higher spending with vigorous opposition to accountability."

Despite this extraordinary power and privilege, The Economist concludes, in relation to the current struggles:

"Public-sector unions will find it hard to win these battles. They have not been particularly successful in mobilising public anger, considering the scale of the cutbacks."

I only hope that we can prove them wrong.

1 comment:

Vicarious Phil said...

Which of the quotes from The Economist do you dispute? Doesn't look vitriolic to me. Take a look at Unison's website if you want to overdose on hyperbole.