It is evident from media coverage the size and speed of proposed public spending continues to cause division in many quarters.
Former Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, has voiced concerns about possible effects of public spending cuts by the coalition government. He cautions those making decisions about spending not to “throw the baby out with the bath water”.
Meanwhile George Osborne claimed welfare spending was “completely out of control”. He cited people making a “lifestyle choice” to live on benefits rather than trying to find work. Whilst few of the working population sympathise with those sponging on the system, it’s difficult to see where these people will readily find work. Especially when competing with experienced individuals recently made redundant and hungry for work.
At their conference, the TUC have come out fighting, with hostile rhetoric. It is easy to gain support from a wide audience worried about their future.
Trade unions have, for a number of years, seen a gradual reduction in membership. With over an 11% fall between 1989 and 2009. The leadership are suddenly in the limelight, throwing a perceived life line to desperate public employees. The right to strike is an important part of our democracy, but not one to be taken lightly. Union membership remains concentrated in the public sector at over 56 per cent compared to just 15 per cent in the private sector. Unions are present in nine out of ten public sector workplaces compared to just three out of ten in the private sector.
At the TUC conference, one brave man, Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the airline pilots’ union BALPA warned some union colleagues were “getting the tone wrong” in resisting every cut. And they had to get the message out beyond unions to the wider community. He said; ‘We have to look beyond this hall and we have to look at the tone and how it works with people outside this hall. We are giving, I believe, the coalition government an open goal.’
For any organisation to attract public support for their cause they need credibility. We, the public, are far more knowledgeable than ever before. The public deficit needs addressing at some point. Spending cuts are inevitable either now or in the future. The unions could use the expertise through their membership to identify areas where cuts would do least damage to both their members and the community as a whole. People working in the public sector are in the best place to pinpoint waste and bad practice where it exists. Whether it be over-inflated budgets or poor, top-heavy management structures.