Thursday, August 12, 2010

PM: Strikes do "nothing but harm" to economy

Britons face an autumn of discontent as workers from several sectors plan to strike. Unite are the latest to announce that members of BAA staff may walkout over a dispute concerning pay. The strike could cause the shutdown of six major airports across Britain and will disrupt travel plans for thousands. Heathrow, Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen would be completely shut effectively closing down Britain for most international air traffic [Sky / BBC / CNN / FT

The Fire Brigade Union are also considering industrial action over working practices which may see the army being brought onto Britain's streets to take their place [BBC].

The strikes may spread into other areas too as the TUC call Civil servants, teachers, health and transport workers to join in a national day of action on 20 October, the day the chancellor, George Osborne, is set to disclose details of a spending review designed to cut public spending by £83 billion [Guardian].

The proposed strikes have been condemned by the prime minister David Cameron saying that the action will damage jobs, tourism and the image of Britain abroad. "I very much hope they [BAA] don't go ahead," he said, adding that a strike would do "nothing but harm." There have also been critical comments coming from some airlines. Ryanair released a statement earlier saying BAA staff were "selfish and underworked" and that that should be reflected in their pay. 

Airlines have already suffered weeks of disruption after volcanic ash coming from Iceland filled British airspace this year. A strike by cabin staff caused losses for British Airways and further industrial action is promised. What ever the rights or wrong behind the disputes, Britain will suffer greatly from such strikes. The economy remains weak and is still struggling out of recession. Although unemployment rates have slowed finding work is still difficult. The number of people unemployed in the UK fell by 49,000 to 2.46 million in the three months to June, but despite the big drop in the jobless number, analysts have focused on the small change in the number of people seeking unemployment benefits, saying this was further evidence that the economic recovery was starting to lose momentum.

"This looks like yet another set of strong and encouraging figures on the surface," said Gerwyn Davies at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, "However, cracks now seem to be emerging; with a considerable growth in part-time work, lower pay settlements and a slower decline in the claimant count all features of a more uncertain jobs market." Those with jobs might consider themselves luck to have a job. But with jobs at a premium, employment practices can and do indeed suffer [BBC].

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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