Britain is closed today, or so it would seem, if the dire warnings by the government and mentioned in the press were to turn out to be true: the UK border controllers are on strike, and huge queues – how British – are expected at Heathrow airport. It is not only the UK Border Agency staff who are on strike, but teachers, council workers and other public sector workers. In total, around 2 million workers will be on strike. So, schools will be shut, libraries closed, non-urgent operations cancelled and rubbish may not be collected in some areas.
The unions are on strike, fighting against the changes in the pensions provisions. Given people are living longer and the economic state is parlous, there needs to be reforms, however, a fair, realistic, and affordable settlement is not easy to reach. It may take some time before such an agreement, and Britain may be in for a winter of discontent, since further strikes may take place early next year.
It remains to be seen which side will win the battle of the public opinion. The government argues that the unions are run by an intransigent clique making life a misery for many people, spurning a generous offer. The unions claim that the current proposals are unfair, thus they had to go on a strike to show the strength of the members’ anger, and that the government is unjustly villifying them. Labour seems to be sitting on the fence a litte: sympathetic to the strikers’ cause, without supporting the actions.