Monday, September 11, 2006

TUC conference: just how many jobs has New Labour privatised?

With the TUC conference opening in Brighton this morning, the Daily Telegraph reverts to its traditional helpful role in industrial relations, with a shock horror warning to its readers that ‘Unions threaten winter of strikes’.

Here it is tempting to quote George Orwell’s aphorism that some things are true, even if the Daily Telegraph says they are true.

Chief political correspondent Toby Helm may technically be in the right. But ‘threatens’ will almost certainly prove the operative word. Strikes last year hit their lowest level since 1891, the year that records were first kept.

With the current delicate situation in the Labour Party, union leaders will want to keep out of the headlines, in the hope of smoothing the path for Mr Psychologically Flawed to take over.

But what caught my eye in the story was the final sentence, a quote from PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka:

‘Mr Serwotka said Labour had privatised more civil service work than the governments of John Major and Margaret Thatcher combined.’

Really? I’d like to see that stat properly sourced, and then fleshed out with some figures. But I happily take Mark at his word on most things.

As a minimum, public sector unions affiliated to the Labour Party should certainly be looking for a commitment to no further sell offs.

If they had any political confidence – and sadly they don’t right now - they would go further and push for vital public services to be taken back into social ownership.

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