Does striking making sense? I think not.

Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely respect the right of workers to withdraw their labour in protest at their conditions – it’s an essential manifestation of freedom of speech. However, in a modern economy, with generous provisions for workers and bulletproof protections in the form of employment legislation, is the mass withdrawal of labour, as threatened by Dave Prentis, leader of the UK’s largest public sector, Unison, sensible?

Dave Prentis, General Secretary of Unison

Dave Prentis: 'The purpose of industrial action is not industrial action, it is to get an agreement that is acceptable.' (Photograph: Linda Nylind for the Guardian)

The argument put forward by the union is that the Government shouldn’t push ahead with plans to increase the retirement age for public sector workers, to move away from final salary pensions or to force them to make greater payments into their pensions because it is unfair; this argument denies the basic economic realities – the Government has no choice.

Historically, it was the case that public sector professionals accepted that they would be paid less than those in the private sector, but that in return they would have better conditions – more holiday allowance, earlier retirement age and greater stability. Workers in the private sector experienced less security, less holiday allowance and worse pension provisions, but earned greater salaries with which to make their own provisions for their financial future.

The differences between the two sectors have been eroded over a number of years, to the extent that some jobs in the public sector now have greater salaries than those of equivalent responsibility in the private sector, due to the need to attract the best talent into the public sector into less ‘glamourous’ roles.

At the same time, workers in the private sector have experienced significant downward pressure on salaries as a result of globalisation and the global recession, and so the balance that existed no longer prevails – the difference between the working conditions across the whole of the economy are now much more similar than they once were.

Against this backdrop, it is hard to understand how the leadership of the Unison can justify the inevitable equalisation of pension provisions for public sector workers when people across the whole of the economy are suffering as we fight our way out of the economic mess left by years of Labour mismanagement.

It is hard to imagine that people in the retail sector who have seen their hours reduced and their salaries squeezed by increased living costs whilst having to work harder and faster than ever before will have much sympathy for striking workers that prevent them getting to work by disrupting train and Tube services or deny their children the education that they need by closing schools – especially when those public sector workers are often better paid.

However, I also sympathise with the overwhelming majority of that union’s membership who DID NOT vote for strike action; can a 20% vote for strike action really be considered sufficiently representative to justify a strike? It defies all logic.

It certainly cannot give Dave Prentis and Unison’s leadership a mandate to call strikes “on a scale not seen since the General Strike of 1926” – such language is clearly politically motivated, and driven by ideology and a desire to bring down a Tory-led government, rather than what is in the best interests of the workers they are meant to represent.

Can workers really afford to give up wages at a time of economic hardship, especially when only a minority of them support strike action? Will they be willing to do so, when so few of them could even be bothered to vote in the first place?

Even Ed Balls, writing today, seems to be encouraging the unions not to strike, conscious that our delicate economic recovery simply cannot sustain a wave of rolling industrial action – it would be irresponsible.

It’s likely the the British public will not be sympathetic to strikers whose working conditions are at least as good as – and in many cases better than – their own.

Bearing this in mind, surely going on strike is the last thing that the unions should be doing now?

Weakening the economy can hardly be in the interests of the people that the unions purport to protect and serve – they should be thinking strategically, rather than focus on the little picture.

I have a feeling that George Osborne will welcome a fight with the unions – it will give the Government a reason to introduce legislation (quite rightly in my opinion) that will force unions to secure at least 50% of the votes of their membership to legitimately hold strikes.

More importantly, it will accelerate the reform of the public sector in a way that aligns well with the Government’s overall plan to reduce the size of the public sector and stimulate growth in the private sector.

I’m torn; I do not want to see our economic recovery disrupted by unnecessary strike action, but at the same time I think that a programme of mass strikes will accelerate the demise of the unions and help to eradicate the militancy that continues to undermine the effectiveness of British trade unions – and ultimately strengthen our economy.

Striking is never effective; in this instance, it is also not right. But it may have positive political outcomes for the Government.

Posted in Business, Politics Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Get out of the car! An unusual car-jacking…

I’m told by a reliable source that this is true, in which case this story is very funny, but potentially one that supports the argument for better gun control in the USA!

Get out of the car! Carjacking with a difference!

Get out of the car! Carjacking with a difference!


All joking aside, it could have ended rather horribly…

Posted in Fun!, Society Tagged , , , , , , , |

Dr Who just gets better and better!

Already, it’s time for the Dr. Who mid-season finale and I just cannot wait – surely Saturday 4 June will see one of the most eagerly-anticipated episodes of a TV drama for many years: “A Good Man Goes to War”.

Picture Dr. Who with his beautiful sidekick Amy Pond (copyright BBC)

Dr. Who with his beautiful sidekick Amy Pond (BBC)

This season of Dr Who has just gone from strength to strength, and the new doctor (Matt Smith) has really surprised me with his excellent grasp of the role – and who can object to watching his beautiful assistant, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), exercise those long  legs on their adventures around the universe”

The next episode “A Good Man Goes to War” promises to be a real corker – I cannot wait to see the mystery of Amy’s baby revealed, but I do wonder what it will all mean for her husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) who upset me last episode by deserting Amy to look after one of the Gangers.

Role on Saturday 4 June – 18:40 on BBC1!

Posted in Fun!, Science, Society Tagged , , , , , |

Has Twitter has done the right thing for Internet privacy?

I’m intrigued by the negative reaction that some have had to Twitter’s decision to release the personal information of a South Tyneside councillor who had attempted to tweet under a veil of digital anonymity.

Twitter’s behaviour is entirely consistent with its terms and conditions and user agreement – nowhere does it say that Twitter allows you to post anonymously, or that it will not comply with the law when directed to do so.

Whilst many Internet users hold the popular misconception that they can be ‘anonymous’ on the Internet, those in the know understand that this is very rarely the case; even when setting-up a free email account and using an Internet café, web users create a unique digital footprint that experienced digital forensic investigators can use to identify them.

People who believe that on-line services like Twitter give them the power and permission to write and publish inaccurate, inflammatory or libellous material are mistaken.

The perceived anonymity of the Internet doesn’t give people carte blanche to behave in a way that negatively affects others.

Personally, I think that people posting on Twitter should identify themselves – if they are going to judge and make comments about people who are happy to reveal their identities, why shouldn’t they?

The Internet privacy developments of the last few days mark an important milestone in the maturing of the Internet and I believe that Twitter was absolutely right to comply with the law of the land and reveal the personal information of an allegedly libellous anonymous tweeter.


Posted in Politics, Privacy, Society, Technology Tagged , , , , |

My thoughts on the IT Directors Forum 2011

I have just returned from the fascinating and enjoyable IT Directors’ Forum 2011 (ITDF11), a major technology conference, organised by Richmond Events and held aboard the luxurious P&O Aurora cruise ship.

At first, I was worried that being stuck on a ship with dozens of suppliers and potential suppliers would be less than enjoyable, but I need not have worried because it was an excellent experience, and one that I highly recommend.

The standard of the event was very high – from the initial cocktail reception, through the excellent keynote presentations and all the way on to the well- organised supplier presentations, it was obvious that the team behind it really understand how to put on a show that is relevant for the audience – and that delivers real value.

Specifically, when compared to other events, several things stood out at ITDF11.

First, the calibre of the attendees was very high, with CIOs and IT directors from hundreds of major organisations across a range of industry sectors, creating great opportunities to talk about the issues facing technology leaders, and the chance to share experiences with peers.

The quality of the event organisation and management was superb; the whole thing ran like clockwork from start to finish and the organisers must be commended on pulling off such a logistical feat whilst making it fun for the attendees.

Last but not least on the list must be the quality of the speakers and facilitators – they were outstanding and the sessions that I attended had the right level of research, insight and thought leadership; I have already started using some of the models that I picked-up at the event, and discussing projects and challenges with some of the great contacts that I made.

Not surprisingly, one of the main topics of discussion over the three days was the cloud, with many delegates talking about their plans to adopt cloud computing, despite the uncertainty that some still have.

Skills management for talented IT professionals was also high on the list, with many technology leaders thinking about how best to keep their most valuable team members as we come out of recession and economic growth returns.

All in all an incredibly stimulating event, and one that I look forward to attending again in the future!

Picture of the P&O Aurora

The P&O Aurora - venue for the IT Director's Forum 2011


Posted in Business, Technology Tagged , , , , , |

The official Red Ed ‘Fightback’ Tour poster


Poor Ed Milliband must have a bit of a headache now.

Posted in Random

President Obama vs. Osama Bin Laden

Now that the world has seen the death of Osama Bin Laden confirmed, it is obvious that President Obama will get a much needed boost for achieving what the two presidents before him failed to do.

His decision to focus the CIA on the apprehension of Bin Laden was clearly the right call, and the whole world will benefit from the Al Qaeda’s loss; he should be congratulated for this.

The picture below sums what this means for President Obama beautifully!

Picture of President Obama saying: "Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate, I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden"

President Obama: "Sorry it took so long to get you a copy of my birth certificate, I was too busy killing Osama bin Laden"

Posted in Politics, Society Tagged , , , , , |

Breaking News: Obama confirms that Osama Bin Laden is dead

The alleged architect of the 9/11 atrocity, Osama Bin Laden, has been confirmed dead – killed days ago in a firefight with US-led forces.

President Obama has confirmed it in a moving speech highlighting the attack on America nearly ten years ago on 9/11, shown in the video below.

Spontaneous celebrations have broken out across America and this a wonderful day for the American people.

This is a major development in the War on Terror!


Posted in Politics, Society Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Official Royal Wedding photographs

The Official Royal Wedding photographsThe Official Royal Wedding photographsThe Official Royal Wedding photographs

Absolutely fabulous!

Posted in Random

Congratulations to Prince William & Princess Catherine on their wedding!

Wow! What a day! Never have I felt prouder to be British – or to be Londoner!

Today’s events remind us why the Royal Family is so important to Britain and to the world; more than a million people lined the streets of Central London helping to cap-off what was an incredibly emotional wedding and celebration that unified not just the country, but the world.

Two billion people are estimated to have tuned-in, and Twitter and Facebook reflect the fact that the whole world is watching this wedding with great interest and affection.

The dress was beautiful, and the only thing that nearly stole the show was Princess Catherine’s sister, Pippa, who looked simply stunning in her Maid of Honour outfit – I was breathless for a moment!

Picture of the Prince William and Princess Catherine kissing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace

Prince William and Princess Catherine kissing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace - with the cutest bridesmaid ever looking a little annoyed by the Lancaster Bomber overhead!

The rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ brought a tear to my eye, as did the first kiss of the beautiful couple on the balcony.

Princess Catherine, the new Duchess of Cambridge, has been incredibly composed and poised throughout what must have been an incredibly demanding and tiring day; she is going to make a brilliant princess.

I am incredibly happy for both of them, but also for the nation that has come together once again thanks to a wonderful royal event highlighting the importance of having a first family that exist above politics and our day-to-day lives.

Picture of the fly past for the wedding of Prince William and Princess Catherine

Royal Wedding Fly Past over Buckingham Palace for Prince William and Princess Catherine - Lancaster Bomber with two World War II fighters.

It’s a terrible day for republicans, as so eloquently put by Conservative blogger Tim Montgomerie on Twitter:

“Marriage + Monarchy + Military uniforms + Church + Pomp + Big crowds + Tory PM + Boris = Horrible day for Lefty republicans!”

I’m not the world’s most emotional person, but even as I write this I can feel quivers of emotion- not just in response to the beautiful wedding, but because of the way in which it has brought together hundreds of millions of people around the world.

The role of the Royal Family as a unifying force has never been more important; at a time when the world is in turmoil and Britain slowly recovers from the economic problems caused by the last recession, the positive impact of today’s events couldn’t be more welcome.

They ended the public part of their wedding in the most amazing way – with Prince William driving his new princess to Clarence House in his father’s pimped-out 1970 Aston Martin Convertible. Only in London!

I send them my congratulations and best wishes for the future – they are an amazing couple and we thank them all for letting us share their special day!

Picture of Prince William driving Princess Catherine in his father's Aston Martin

Prince William driving Princess Catherine from Buckingham Palace to Clarence House in his father's Aston Martin

Posted in Fun!, Politics, Royal, Society Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |