Public sector unions are far too power

I see that vested interests of the public sector unions and senior doctors are starting to flex their muscles muscles  over the proposed Tony Blair Tory NHS reforms. Labour has even managed that wonderful thing in politics of completely disowning the past and are now vehemently opposed to the very policies that they proposed when in Government as Dizzy points out:
Some may also remember that just a few months ago I asked a genuine questions for lefties about what was more important to them. That NHS services be free at the point of use universally for everyone, or the structure that delivers the service.

At the time, most of them said the former, not the latter was more important. However, the reaction that is brewing to the continued implementation and extension of Labour policies by the Coalition is, naturally, based more on the latter.

Yes children, that's right! We are now through the wonderful looking glass where the Opposition denounce policies based entirely on their own policies of the last decade because it's Tories implementing them.

Is it anyone wonder so many people think politics is a load of bollocks when thes sort of intellectually vacuous and fluid position changes are so prevalent any sane person can see them?
Of course this will al be dressed up as protecting the public and patients. We will no doubt hear dire threats about the end of our NHS and other hyperbole by those who really are no more than vested interests looking after their own, which in most cases is what they are paid to do. Sadly, they have far too much power and may well get their way.

Don't believe me? Think that is just anti-union libertarian scaremongering? Well......

I should first say that I don't have a problem with unions, not only because of free association, but I am sure that some employers, including the public sector, find it easier to deal with a group of workers doing the same task through a single entity. I am also aware that unions provide good professional insurance and public protection for their members. My wife was a member of a teachers union for those very reasons.  But that doesn't give them the right use threats and strikes to derail Government policy.

There was very good briefing on public sector unions in Economist recently which is well worth the read. I can't link to the main article as it is behind a pay wall but the leader is available. But that is only the start. From the briefing we learn much about the public sector's aversion to reform:
Public-sector unions enjoy advantages that their private-sector rivals only dream of. As providers of vital monopoly services, they can close down entire cities. And as powerful political machines, they can help to pick the people who sit on the other side of the bargaining table [Ed Miliband].
Left-leaning economists reply that public-sector workers are, on average, better educated. Whatever the merits of this argument, three things seem clear. Unions have suppressed wage differentials in the public sector. They have extracted excellent benefits for their members. And they have protected underperforming workers from being sacked.
The unions’ influence extends to the size and nature of the public sector. Private-sector unions have learned to exercise self-restraint when it comes to pushing for more manpower: they realise that more workers may reduce the wages of their members and that a higher wage bill may drive their employers out of business. But public-sector unions are relentless in demanding more resources and more personnel, which conveniently translate into more members and more dues.
Their most dramatic success has been in Britain. When Britain’s union-backed New Labour government came to power in 1997, public spending accounted for almost 40% of GDP. When it left power in 2010 public spending was nearly 50% of GDP (partly, to be fair, as a result of recession), and 1m workers had been added to the public-sector payrolls.
It would be a mistake to write off the public-sector unions. They are masters of diverting attention from strategic to tactical questions.
As some readers may know the erstwhile leader of LPUK got in to a spot of bother when he lost his temper over this very subject. The post is now off-line and so is the original article that John Gummer wrote so I can't link to either of them. However I do have some of the original quotes, from John Gummer who was talking about an encounter he had:
I've been thinking about an exchange I had in Manchester. Britain's second largest teaching union, the NUSWT, promoted itself at the three Party Conferences. Their stand was uncompromising. The posters contained no hint of renewal or improvement; no recognition of the huge increase in attainment that the nation demands. Simply a series of statements opposing even this Government's relatively feeble attempts at reform. Above them all the keynote claim 'PUTTING TEACHERS FIRST'.

I approached the imposing woman behind the counter. "Shouldn't that read 'putting children first' I ventured. "Certainly not! We're a Trade Union and I'm its General Secretary."
That got The Devil going but for me it that wasn't a surprise as I've always taken the view that unions are their to represent their members and nobody else. I learned this from my father who grew up in the slums of Bradford and worked in the mills as a young man. He was always scathing of unions both for their selfishness and also for their incompetence. Anyway, I digress, more from John Gummer's encounter:
"But haven't you noticed that on the commercial stalls around you businesses are saying that they put the customer first?" Mrs Chris Keates [the union rep] drew herself up to her full height. "I won't take lessons from the private sector with their bonus culture," she expostulated
So how to curb their power and get some control back in our hands, those that pay for and use the services? I suppose we can give the coalition some grudging approval for trying:

Education vouchers are a good start in curbing the power of the teaching unions. I would go further and allow profits to be made but if we can get the money following children then the best schools will flourish and the teaching unions will lose power as pupils gravitate to the schools where the militant unions have less control.

There is nothing like personal contact for ensuring that our money is spent in our best interests and not the vested interests of  the healthy lobby. If I can sit with my GP and choose a hospital or consultant I am going to be choosing the one that cures me and gets me home without killing me first. It will be harder for poor hospitals to hide behind the fact they we have little choice when it comes to failing patients and giving them MRSA.

OK, so that's the simple view and reams of paper will be filled analysing those two subjects alone, but if they are to succeed they will curb the power of the vested interests and we will all be better off and much as I would like them to go further, I would prefer that these small steps were successful first, for the price of failure doesn't bear thinking about.

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