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No Goldilocks moment as Government veers from appeasement to confrontation with unions

By Tim Montgomerie
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GovePXHmmm. Not sure about Michael Gove's tough talk against the unions this morning. This is what the Education Secretary has said in a speech to Policy Exchange:

"On Wednesday, TUC leaders will call on their members to bring Britain to a halt.

Among those Union leaders are people who fight hard for their members and whom I respect.

But there are also hardliners, militants itching for a fight.

They want families to be inconvenienced.

They want mothers to give up a day's work, or pay for expensive childcare, because schools will be closed.

They want teachers and other public sector workers to lose a day's pay in the run-up to Christmas.

They want scenes of industrial strife on our TV screens; they want to make economic recovery harder; they want to provide a platform for confrontation just when we all need to pull together."

Up until recently the Government was in full appease-the-unions mode. It refused to introduce the kind of strike ballot thresholds urged on them by the likes of the CBI and the Mayor of London and which might have protected the public from Wednesday's action. The Coalition has not acted against the £113 million subsidy of train unions as identified by The TaxPayers' Alliance. Its concessions to the unions in the pensions talks have been huge - and were dubbed an "unconditional surrender" by the Centre for Policy Studies. We seem to be on the verge of economically-destructive strike action to enact reforms which will produce little benefit for the immediate recovery.

In his article for The Sun last week I think the PM got the tone right. I'm not sure Michael Gove has done so today. His rhetoric will, I guess, be loved by many readers of this site but the shift in rhetorical gear seems a bit grating to me. Although the public is opposed to strike action they also blame the government for mishandling negotiations (by 59% to 23%). Ministers need to tread carefully. This isn't 1985 and teachers and dinner ladies are not mineworkers and train drivers.


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