Post on unions 23/09/2011
Posted by Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, at 10:41, Fri 23 September 2011:
Last week I was fortunate enough to meet Eddy Shah and his charming wife Jennifer at a Conservative drinks reception I was addressing in James Gray’s North Wiltshire constituency. Mr Shah led the fight back against over mighty unions in the 1980s during which he received death threats against him, his wife and his children. The print unions were notoriously aggressive and Eddy Shah’s courage in facing up to them was an essential part of Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. Never again could the private sector be held to ransom by union bosses who had no mandate and were ultimately set on undermining the democratically elected government.
However, in the public sector the trade unions remain strong as were shown at the recent TUC gathering. Some are threatening a bigger dispute than the General Strike of 1926. As this was a disaster for union members, especially the miners, it is not a wise choice of historic comparison from their point of view. The dispute would be about public sector pensions. These have become a source of contention partly because of the difficult economic situation but also because of increases in life expectancy which make it unaffordable for people to retire at or below sixty. Naturally such changes are unsettling but they will not reduce existing entitlements and the public schemes have become so misaligned with those in the private sector that reform is essential.
All sensible people hope there will not be strikes on this issue. Sadly the rhetoric of the trade unions is extremely combative. If it continues it would be a direct challenge to the democratically legitimate government which could not be allowed to succeed.