Ed Miliband blog on the planned pension strikes28 June 2011
Strikes are a sign of failure.
They are a sign of failure on both sides and Thursday’s industrial action is a mistake.
Even with just hours to go I would urge both the unions and the government to think again.
The Labour Party I lead will always be the party of the parent trying to get their children to school, the mother and father who know the value of a day’s education.
On behalf of those people I urge unions and ministers to get back around the negotiating table and sort this out.
I understand why teachers are so angry with the government.
But I urge them to think about whether causing disruption in the classroom will help people understand their arguments.
You do not win public backing for an argument about pensions by inconveniencing the public – especially not while negotiations are ongoing.
This is not to excuse David Cameron from taking his share of the blame for these strikes.
The Conservative-led Government has badly mishandled the whole process.
As we saw on the NHS and sentencing, it is typical of ministers in this government to rush ahead with plans only to find they have got the detail wrong as problems emerge all around them.
The same has happened here.
They asked John Hutton for a detailed report. That report set out sensible starting points for negotiations.
But before Lord Hutton had a chance to produce that report, Mr Cameron and his ministers slapped a 3% surcharge on pension payments for millions of public sector workers.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, added to the chaos by making an announcement about the retirement age whilst in the middle of negotiations.
The truth is that the government is botching reform.
When they should be building bridges to find a solution they are mishandling the whole situation with parents paying the price.
When Labour was in office we had tough negotiations limiting the taxpayers’ liability for the rising cost of public sector pensions.
We increased the age new employees would retire. We moved many from final salary to career average schemes.
We did it without strikes and under Labour the number of days lost through industrial disputes fell to its lowest-ever level.
This government has acted in a reckless and provocative manner.
Despite this, some of the public sector trade unions are continuing to seek a negotiated settlement rather than taking strike action.
They are right to do so, rather than giving the government the fight for which, too often, it seems to be spoiling.
Now we have botched negotiations, unwanted strikes and deadlock on reform.
The public deserve better. All sides need to get round the table and back to negotiations.