November 29th, 2011
05:36 PM GMT
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London (CNN) – I’m reading that the public sector walk out to hit the UK on Wednesday will be the biggest strikes in Britain since 1989 - since the Margaret Thatcher era. One union says it will be a historic day.

In the 21 years I lived in London, I’ve seen transportation crippled, schools emptied, streets blocked by strikers and demonstrators. But the unions are telling us we ain’t seen nothing yet.

I’m not convinced. Yes, something like two million people will be on strike and tens of thousands are expected to march. But it will be peaceful. I don’t expect my daughter’s Year 4 teacher to run through the streets. I don’t expect immigration officials or workers at the National Archives to clash with police.

Strikes in the UK are not what they used to be. Firstly, unions have to set a strict time for strikes - this one will be 24 hours from midnight to midnight. Only the unions and affiliates that vote to strike can do so - no sympathy strikes allowed by law - and workers only hurt their cause if they cause trouble.

Further, some workers have to strike because the union has ordered it - private school teachers will not be at work on Wednesday if their union mandates it.

A year long miners’ strike this ain’t.

It’s also important to note this strike is over just one issue - public sector pension reform. The unions stress they have already reformed and that many of their members already pay more for less - noting that some workers are striking just to keep a hold of their £4,000 ($7,000) a year pension when they do retire down the road. Fair enough.

The government says the country must live within its means. It’s cutting jobs, raising taxes and trying to keep borrowing from going higher. After all, the government can only go after those workers whom get a government pay cheque.

Because UK law dictates unions must give details of whom will strike and when, companies and tourists have had plenty of time to prepare. People will work from home, airlines have already cancelled flights into Heathrow since immigration queues will be long and we parents all know that schools will open as normal on Thursday.

I suspect the biggest disruption on Wednesday will be parents who don’t go to work in order to look after the children.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. chris

    Where the hell do they think the government will get the money from? As an American teacher I can't tell British teachers how good they have it. Fantastic pay, fantastic pension (even when it's changed) and a country which doesn't victimize its teachers for its poor education department. If Americans went on strike for the same problems which you face we'd be on strike 365 days a year.

    November 29, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  2. Tom

    @ chris The grass is always greener on the other side.

    November 29, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  3. Raman Kolluri

    No one should ever go through London. The workers, British Airways personnel do not care what happens to the passingers. All they care is about themselves. Time and again, they simply strike and make the life of passingers misserable. All should avoid London if possible. There are many other airports in Europe where you can fly without any hassalas.

    November 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  4. James

    Don't believe these strikers, as a britisher, we all here hate the BritishAirways & Airport Union workers, they have ruined our tourist industry in the past couple of months and have destroyed the brand of BA forever. This also includes the rest of the "public" sector workers, they are all well paid, have good pensions compared to many other countries, they have lot of benefits that private sector workers die for and yet the always strike and put the country on its knees. THey need to learn to live with what they have, the country is struggling as it is with all the looting the bankers and corporates are doing. Their greed will only destroy the future of the next generation.

    November 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  5. abc

    I hate Heathrow airport . very bad public service overhere , there could be worst in the wold . Those poor guy still go for strike , sham of them . Go hell .

    November 30, 2011 at 2:40 am |
  6. Bruno

    Typical CNN bullS trying to downplay any British strikes as nothing interesting while constantly hyping any Italian or Spanish strikes as the end of the world and the European Union. What a sickening and shameful news "Reporting".

    November 30, 2011 at 3:16 am |
  7. Ange

    Heathrow airport and their operator BAA from bottom to top management are lazy, cold-blooded and very selfish. NEVER try to get any sympathy or something special from them. Be fully prepare for the worst you can imagine if you really wanna go through there.

    November 30, 2011 at 3:25 am |
  8. Martin

    Lot of clueless morons talking about BAA/BA workers, these are public sector workers striking at the prospect of government hammering their retirement-planned-for pensions.

    Not for nothing but the governments sole argument is that private sector pensions aren't as good – well more fool the rest of us for accepting pensions that clearly aren't fit for purpose.

    November 30, 2011 at 4:22 am |
  9. michael

    I am a teacher. I cannot understand why the author of this article decided to ridicule the union and the strike instead of discussing the merits of the reasons behind the strike. Teachers where I work, a private school, have gone several years without cost of living adjustments. The 200 euro increase per parent is thought to be too much. However, the parents drive in cars that cost well over 200, 000 euro. I think the 1% needs to give to the 99%. The government asks that we live within our means. Fair enough but we want a new deal.

    November 30, 2011 at 6:16 am |
  10. Molton Brown

    Sorry, I have no sympathy. I work in the private sector in the UK. It's been 3 years since I have had a pay rise. I have to pay into a private pension fund out of my own salary. (company does not contribute) I work for a very large retailer in the UK and the hours are hectic. (Not so in the public sector) Compared to many other countries, the UK does not know how good they have it. Like I said, sorry, no sympathy, just a inconvenience!

    November 30, 2011 at 7:22 am |
  11. James

    @michael, they are cutting into your pension because the Government just CAN'T afford it anymore!!! The bankers looted your country and every other country out there, UK is actually bankrupt only living on debt money. Its time for Public sector to compromise, look at Private sector, some of them haven't got raise in 5Years, imagine how its like with all the inflation going on. Many are living on their savings or credit cards. You need to sacrifice and stop being greedy. Debt money, is money your future generation will be paying.

    November 30, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  12. Conrad Steele

    And here we go with all these silly "Government has no money" arguments from stupid Americans. The Government decides what to fund and where to invest! It is their choice to screw teachers and the like, but not the fat cats! It is not a necessity, it's a CHOICE, and so it can be changed.

    November 30, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  13. Frank Finnegan

    This is the worst person you could have picked to write this article; pompous, condescending. Please use common sense and pick a more balanced reporter.

    November 30, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  14. Mezzadls

    Strikes are based on POWER, not fair justice. The more power they have, you more they demand. Go to court if you have grievances
    Unlike before, now strikes hurt mainly the innocent
    People must learn to live within their means.
    Why should private people pay more taxes to give in to their demands?

    November 30, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  15. Laura

    I agree with Conrad and Frank on this one. I left the UK for a better life elsewhere. The strikers are striking because the Government is taking their Money off them: But i dont see that same Gov targeting the Fat cats who screwed the whole world over. What gets me is this is a global thing, not just a UK thing, so why the condensation from the writer? Oh right he works 60 hour weeks, for basic wage and 14 days holiday a year...well more the idiot he is for putting up with it!

    November 30, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
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