Golden rules. Well, if it's something I've learned about golden rules from this government, it is that they are there to be broken. So here goes.
My only golden rule about this blog is that I will not blog about my work. This is for a couple of reasons, I don't want to - in the main my work is dull, and it isn't a good idea - if I say something controversial and it is traced back to me, I could find myself in a spot of bother.
So. As many of you know I'm a civil servant (and I'm very civil, I always say hello, good-bye, please and thank-you. My mother brought me up very well), by most peoples' reckoning about 250,000 of us were out on strike today, I wasn't one of them. And I will explain why.
Firstly, it's not my union that has gone out on strike. As a Libertarian I have absolutely no problem with the concept of a unionised workplace. One of the central beliefs of Libertarianism is the freedom of association. However I am not a member of the PCS union, they are far too militant for my liking, and locally have engaged in shameful, personal attacks against managers and members and reps of other unions. Criticise policy and performance all you like, launch personal attacks (and these attacks were disgusting and very, very personal, below even that which one would expect of a playground bully) and my interest in having you represent me is nil.
I will now trot out the old line about the difference in pay between private sector employees and their equivalents in the public sector. I am not a high ranking officer, and my pay is not stellar. However it is enough for me to live on, I have (a lesser degree of) security and I know that (at present) my pay will be in my bank account at the end of every month. That is worth a lot to me, so I'm happy with my lot, even though it isn't perfect.
Secondly, I'm not in complete agreement with the subject of the action. As I understand it, it all hinges on the amount payable to staff if they are laid off. Under the new system which is due to be introduced in April 2011, I would stand to lose about 40% of what I would currently be paid in the event of my being laid off. Whilst that is a sizeable amount, it is still well beyond that which would be given out to most private sector employees.
Am I happy about this? No, not particularly. However I have an understanding that the money that has been splashed about over the last thirteen years simply is not there anymore. We are broke, so there are two options, cut back on expenditure, or raise taxes. I don't want the latter, either coming out of my pay-packet or making people view me as the greedy, lazy, incompetent civil servant that has ensured a bigger chunk has gone AWOL from theirs. No, cuts have to be made, and we on the factory floor have a duty to take our share, just as our managers in the office above us do. I hope they realise this though. Whether they do or not remains to be seen.
Whilst I completely understand the reaction of my colleagues, not just in my department, but from across the civil service, going on strike isn't going to change the fact that the cupboard is bare. We cannot pay out cash that doesn't exist.
The worry is that as soon as this reduced pay-out regime comes into force, the job cuts will start. It would seem that we need to reduce by 10% (natural wastage is about 3% - 4%). Well, at the risk of sounding hard hearted, I reckon my department could probably cut 10% of the typical lazy, incompetent staff at a stroke and not lose any efficiency at all. Poor performance dismissals are a very rare animal round my way, and too many people have had it too easy for too long. The lazy and incompetent are tolerated, carried, not rocking the boat is the order of the day down here. It is amazing how the feckless and can't be bothered get very energised and determined as soon as moves to finish their free ride appear on the horizon. The policy of 'it's a hassle, let's not force the issue' has gone on far too long, both on the factory floor and in the office above. It must stop, now.
I'm confident that if the cuts come, I'm capable of proving that I am, have been and will continue to be worth my job. If I'm not, then I'll just have to deal with it. Again, I may sound hard hearted, I may sound like I'm looking out for number one. Well, I am. I am not convinced that any union can look after me and especially not the PCS. It seems to me the PCS are like the big 3 parties. They get your subs and then demand your complete obedience to their agenda. Well, to be frank, Fuck That. If these savings HAVE to be made, if these cuts MUST happen then all the strikes in the world will not alter that fact. To borrow a phrase, we can't carry on like this. It isn't fair on the taxpayer and it isn't fair on the staff who are competent, who do work and do care.
I cross the picket line with a clear conscience. However I also do it with no criticism of those standing on it, they are poorly managed, frustrated at a sea of waste, demoralised and (the majority of good workers) are undervalued by their managers and ministers. I understand them, but I cannot join them.