With the nurses, doctors and teachers continuing their strike actions, the government is giving out a clear message: “If you want to dedicate your career to providing critical public services, you must expect to be used as a pawn in the Government’s fight against inflation.
“You didn’t cause the inflation, that was a combination of oil prices and the mini-budget, but you are to be cannon fodder in the fight against it.”
My ex-wife worked for 30 years in Industrial Relations for Rolls Royce. As a small aero engine manufacturer, they were fighting for survival against the American companies who were keen to wipe them out of the civil market. She had to negotiate tough pay deals, efficiency savings, re-structurings and repeated redundancies. But she was held in the highest esteem by the trades’ unions. Why? Because her working class origins in a Yorkshire mill town gave her massive respect and empathy for the workforce. She built strong and positive personal relationships. I can’t remember a single strike action in all those gruelling but massively successful years!
Our Government has a very different sense of Industrial Relations. There is no sense of common cause; of being the employer who is on the same team as the employee; of mutual respect. Instead of conveying the sense that: “We profoundly value you even though we can’t afford to pay you what you deserve this year.” They have made adversaries of almost all their employees.
Even if the government’s ‘tough it out’ approach pays off, they will have lost the respect of those who provide critical life-saving and educational services. In Saffron Walden I know of one headteacher who is quitting ten years early because it simply isn’t worth continuing. Another young deputy head who has left the profession entirely due to unbearable stress levels. Waiting times to see our GPs have never been so long.
For as long as inflation is their ‘top priority’, we know that our health and our children are not.
Edward Gildea June 2023