I’m in London on vacation with family, but will be filing my regular Wednesday and Friday columns and blogging when the sloooow Internet connections allow. There’s much tension here as three-quarters of a million public union workers prepare to strike on Thursday. Featured above is one of countless posters littering the streets — I snapped it near the Earl’s Court tube stop. It’s a taste of Wisconsin across the pond as fiscal conservatives try to rein in bloated pensions and battle the entrenched culture of entitlement of Big Labor. Naturally, the unions have no problem endangering public safety and national security to protect their racket:
Hundreds of thousands of travellers can expect long queues at passport control because 70 per cent of UK Border Agency staff are members of the striking Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
The border agency has written to airlines suggesting they advise their passengers to “travel on an alternative day”. But most travellers will already have tickets booked and will be unable to change their plans. Delays are also expected at ferry terminals and on Channel Tunnel trains.
The PCS even suggests that there will be a “theoretical risk to security” because Britain’s borders will be “weakened” by the pressure on those staff not on strike to waive normal controls in an attempt to clear backlogs. As many as 500,000 passengers are likely to be affected by the strike, in addition to the millions of parents who will have to make arrangements for children whose schools will be closed. Countless others will be affected by the biggest walkout in a generation.
The industrial action by four unions protesting about public sector pension reform begins at 6pm today and ends at midnight tomorrow.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has tried to underscore the demographic roots of the pension crisis and the need for unified action and shared sacrifice to preserve jobs. Teachers’ union leaders are too busy threatening violence for an adult conversation:
While Britain has experienced widespread and sporadically violent protests against public sector spending cuts aimed at dealing with the budget deficit, it has so far escaped the level of public anger seen in other European countries.
However, momentum is growing against the government’s spending cuts, as public sector workers complain they are having to pay for mistakes made in the financial sector that triggered the credit crisis.
“The Government needs to be aware that more and more people are becoming extremely angry about this attack on pensions and will take action to defend them,” said Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers.
“The ‘we are all in this together’ rhetoric is sounding increasingly hollow with each passing day,” she added, referring to the government’s oft-repeated catchphrase.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has based its proposed reforms on a review by a former Labour government from the Labour party, but that has not helped it sell the changes to unions.
Workers will pay more money into their pension savings and have to stay in their jobs for longer. Pensions will no longer be based on a worker’s final salary before retirement.
The government has threatened to tighten the law on industrial action if there is a big disruption as a result of any strikes, a move the unions describe as blackmail.
Meanwhile in Greece…
Riot police fought running battles with hooded youths in Athens today as tens of thousands took the streets against tough anti-austerity measures.
Parts of the capital were ablaze as youths hurled rocks, bricks and petrol bombs at police who responded with baton charges and tear gas.
Clouds of smoke were left hanging over the city’s landmarks. Dozens were injured.
Tonight protesters, taking part in a two-day national strike, were on the streets again.
Hundreds of terrified tourists ran for safety from cafes and restaurants as youths, many wearing gas masks and scarves covering their faces, rampaged in front of luxury hotels in Syntagma Square .
Shops, banks, trucks and bins were all set ablaze.
Five thousand police were patrolling the streets.
The Greek parliament votes tomorrow on another series of kick-the-can “austerity” measures culminating in more band-aid bailouts. Spain and France continue to be swarmed by socialist agitators, as well:
If the measures do not pass, Greece could be the first country to default on its loans and quit the eurozone, triggering a continent-wide political convulsion.
But even Mervyn King, chancellor of the Bank of England, seemed unconvinced that a further bailout would help.
“If the underlying problems have not changed, the crisis comes back in an even more severe form,” he said this morning.
“And that has been the case right through the past 18 months in trying to deal with Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and indeed in the problems for the euro area as a whole, which is why I say that there are dangers in just buying time, because if you forget the problem and say ‘well thank goodness, that’s gone away for a few weeks’, that could be a very dangerous attitude.”
Spanish protests continue to build until a major rally in Madrid on July 24th, but regular marches in the Mediterranean country’s major cities are now attracting hundreds of thousands of attendants.
Barcelona saw tens of thousands take to the streets over the weekend in a show of force ahead of next month’s action, as workers demonstrated against cuts to jobs, services and welfare.
Meanwhile, France watched as over 100 demonstrators were arrested earlier this month during a march against pension reforms and public sector cuts in Paris.
Britain’s strike on Thursday also concerns public sector pensions, as opposed to broader austerity measures, but with up to 750,000 teachers and workers preparing to walk out the government has reacted with alarm at the breadth of the action.
A massive march will wind its way through central London to the Houses of Parliament on Thursday, as National Union of Teachers (NUT) members come to lobby their MPs.
Wonder if they’ll be bringing fake doctors’ notes with them like their brothers and sisters in Madison and Milwakuee?
I’ll keep you updated on the scene here Thursday. Toodles. 😉
Er, and speaking of Wisconsin, here’s the latest from Christian Schneider at NR on the bizarre “chokehold” allegations by liberal state Supreme Court judge Ann Bradley against conservative justice David Prosser.
Jonathan Tobin at Commentary: “This is just another sign of how brutal the battle between liberals and conservatives in Wisconsin has become. Having failed to stop the governor’s legislative agenda via boycotts by Democratic legislators and then a failed court challenge, is appears the next phase of this no-hold-barred dustup are attempts to personally destroy those associated with support of Walker’s ideas. While not much may come of the investigation against Prosser, it is a sign of how nasty things have gotten there. While one would hope that judges, of all people, would use this incident as a sign its time to turn down the temperature in Wisconsin, it may be the start of a new round of political mudslinging.”
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