I strongly believe it is a fundamental right of employees to withdraw their labour after all other attempts at reaching an agreement with employers – including independent arbitration – have failed. But whatever action is taken it must be proportionate.
When British Airways cabin crews went on strike it massively inconvenienced the travelling public although those whose businesses, health or jobs depended on being able to fly were able to find alternative carriers. BAs shareholders were hit hardest by the staff’s industrial action and a compromise was eventually agreed.
When a small number of tanker drivers held a ballot to strike and voted in favour of industrial action even the threat was disproportionate as anyone witnessing the queues at petrol stations will have seen.
The Government reacted badly, and if some were looking for some kind of party political advantage that’s unforgivable. Nevertheless without the strike ballot there would have been no comment and no panic at the pumps.
While the oil company bosses watched the news of the threatened strike by their drivers other businesses suffered, not least the tourism industry where bookings were cancelled, and people missed their appointments or were late for work all because they couldn’t, or feared they wouldn’t, access fuel.
In the event of a full-blown strike jobs will be lost, people’s health will be affected and our fragile economy will be seriously damaged. It is simply disproportionate for a small handful of drivers whatever their reasons for action to hold an entire country to ransom. They need to find a way where their action impacts on the profits of the oil companies without jeopardising the UK economy.
Interestingly the drivers union is one of the Labour Party’s main paymasters. It’s head, Len McCluskey has had more dinners with Ed Miliband than any of the identified ‘Premier League’ donors to the Tory Party have had with the Prime Minister. If there was ever a case for long overdue party finance reform these examples are surely it.
Given the relationship between the Labour Party and the Union behind the threatened strike one word from the Labour Leader could stop it in its tracks. One word that could transform Ed Miliband from hostage to Senior Statesman who put his country’s economy first.
I spent nearly a year on the dole in Torbay in the mid 1980’s so I know how hard it is to find work in our local economy. I had to move away to secure a full-time job which is why I believe we need to focus our efforts today on those who need a helping hand the most.
In Torbay 1,135 18 to 24-year olds are claiming Job Seekers Allowance (unemployment benefit under a silly new title) and they need our support.
It is very clear that youth unemployment is an economic waste and a slow-burn social disaster. Research shows that if young people are out of work, the consequences of that will be felt for a long-time afterwards.
As we rebuild the economy from the mess the Coalition Government inherited, we can’t lose the skills and talent of our young people – right when we need them most. We need the next generation and they need us.
That is why as a Liberal Democrat, I am proud of our contribution to the Coalition Government with the launching the Youth Contract that will give every young person the opportunity to earn or learn.
The Youth Contract will help them through advice, support, training and by giving young people in Torbay the experience necessary to be successful in the work place.
With the coming of the by-pass and the opportunities in its wake, local businesses are acutely aware of the need to engage with the schemes the Government is promoting to help people into work. I hope they can engage positively with this one too.
Now the dust has settled after the knee jerk reactions, and it has to be admitted Government spin, the true impact of the recent budget is beginning to become clearer.
Most local taxpayers will be £45 a month better off than they were under Labour and in Torbay nearly 3,000 low paid workers will no longer pay any income tax at all.
In a time of rising food and fuel prices these are really important measures designed to mitigate someway against the inflationary forces at work in the global economy.
On the other side tough new taxes on the wealthy will raise five times as much for public services as the temporary 50p rate with new taxes targeted at people who live in homes worth more than £2 million.
Even the minority of pensioners in Torbay actually affected by the future freeze in personal allowances will not lose in cash terms, unlike when the same allowances were frozen in the last Parliament with no corresponding inflation busting increase in the state pension.