Another Winter of Discontent?

The government is due to present the detail of the cuts this week. But a variety of press leaks has produced a series of cries of opposition, and planned demonstrations from those who fear worse working conditions; or even job losses.

The TUC is particularly concerned with job loss in the defense industries, including jobs in Scotland. The Fire Brigade fears cuts to pay, pensions and hours of working. Unite, one of Britain’s largest unions is to demonstrate outside the House of Commons tomorrow. They are also concerned about defense cuts. London Underground had 5 trains trapped on the Jubilee line today, due to power failures. This is against a background of recent strikes; and planned future strikes. Royal Mail workers fear the effects of privatization. They argue that this could be the end of a “universal” service; meaning a single price for all destinations in Britain. There is also a large pension deficit.

These examples could be added to. But are they enough to bring another winter of discontent? The earlier winters were in 1973/4 and 78/9. The first date produced a 3 day week and an election over “Who rules Britain”? The Conservatives lost this election to Labour. The second date is remembered for pay freezes, and the return of the Conservatives to power. What both dates had in common was a near universal effect on the economy. There were widespread strikes over most industries. Governments appeared unstable.

Today’s approaching winter is different. We have a new government, as yet untested. The effect of the cuts is not universal. Rather it is seen as disproportionately affecting public sector workers. Some bank workers are now in the public sector, and rightly fear for their jobs as many have already been cut. Private sector bank workers are also affected; but not those at the top. All this is far from universal.

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