November 29th, 2011
05:36 PM GMT
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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