Friday, February 25, 2011

Doing "a Maggy": Scott Walker in the Iron Lady's footsteps

WaPo: "Rubicon: A river in Wisconsin", by Charles Krauthammer

The magnificent turmoil now gripping statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and soon others marks an epic political moment. The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity. At the federal level, President Obama's budget makes clear that Democrats are determined to do nothing about the debt crisis, while House Republicans have announced that beyond their proposed cuts in discretionary spending, their April budget will actually propose real entitlement reform. Simultaneously, in Wisconsin and other states, Republican governors are taking on unsustainable, fiscally ruinous pension and health-care obligations, while Democrats are full-throated in support of the public-employee unions crying, "Hell, no."

A choice, not an echo: Democrats desperately defending the status quo; Republicans charging the barricades.

Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health-care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.

Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute - and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance. (...) >>>

Feb. 25, 2011

The French are 'at it' again. Sarko's turn to tame the beast -

Telegraph: "Protesters to hit France en masse"

Airport staff, bus and train drivers, teachers, postal workers and armoured truck drivers who stock cash machines will join refinery workers and others in a day of nationwide strikes against Mr Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age.

Fuel shortages will worsen as refinery strikes go into an eighth day, and the authorities will be alert for any escalation of sporadic violence on Monday in some cities, with small groups of troublemakers torching vehicles and scuffling with police. (...) >>>

Oct. 19, 2010

Meantime in the home country... While calling for legislation to raise the legal threshold for triggering a strike London Mayor, Boris Johnson in his conference speech today is following Maggy Thatcher's footsteps -


Union bosses have gone absolutely beserk, and are seething with rage at the brutal honesty of Boris Johnson’s analysis of the transport strike in today’s Daily Telegraph. They say the truth hurts. In this instance, the truth hit all the strikers with such a karmic smack in the kisser than they ran squeaking to David Cameron like sissies, telling him to intervene, like a bunch of snivelling little girls. Geez! Is big bad Boris making you cry? (...) Boris said: “This is a nakedly political strike. It has nothing whatever to do with health and safety – nor have the union leaderships raised any such fears in the course of the negotiations. (...) >>>

Oct. 4, 2010

Greek unions, tamed at last ... but it's a terribly close shave at a very high price -

FoxBusiness: "Greek Union, Employers Groups Clinch 3-year Wage Pact"

Greece's private sector umbrella union GSEE and the country's major employers' groups reached a three-year wage pact Thursday that freezes wages and pegs future increases to euro zone inflation. According to a statement by GSEE, Greek workers will get no salary increase this year, and will only see rises of roughly 1.5% in 2011 and 1.7% in 2012. Those increases, to be set each year on July 1, will be based on the prevailing euro zone inflation rate. Greece currently has an inflation rate hovering around 5% and has seen price increases traditionally outpace those of the rest of Europe.

As such, the agreement will translate into an effective loss in purchasing power for most Greek workers.The agreement comes after months of on-again, off-again negotiations that coincided with Greece's economic crisis and which forced the government earlier this year to seek an EUR110 billion loan from the European Union and International Monetary Fund. Under the terms of that loan deal, Greece has cut worker protections, slashed public sector wages and extra month bonuses, while also cutting pensions across the board. (...) >>>

Jul 15, 2010

EU chief delivers stark warning to unions -

MailOnline: "Nightmare vision for Europe as EU chief warns 'democracy could disappear' in Greece, Spain and Portugal"

Democracy could ‘collapse’ in Greece, Spain and Portugal unless urgent action is taken to tackle the debt crisis, the head of the European Commission has warned. In an extraordinary briefing to trade union chiefs last week, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso set out an ‘apocalyptic’ vision in which crisis-hit countries in southern Europe could fall victim to military coups or popular uprisings as interest rates soar and public services collapse because their governments run out of money. The stark warning came as it emerged that EU chiefs have begun work on an emergency bailout package for Spain which is likely to run into hundreds of billions of pounds. (...) >>>

June 15, 2010

Day of union violence, 3 dead -

Demotix: "Austerity protests turn violent in Greece"

Mass rallies organised to protests the austerity measures introduced by the Greek government following EU-IMF bailout deal turn into riots. (...) In Athens three people died after the bank in the entrance to their office block was firebombed. (...) >>>

May 5, 2010

Greek CP can't pass up a good crisis -
We must assume the unions have no qualms about their endless demands, which in the end has caused this crisis - in the photo: KKE, the Communist Party of Greece trying to trigger a pan European revolution, seriously -

Telegraph: "Greek protestors unfurl banners on Acropolis"

Greek protesters have unfurled banners over the walls of the Acropolis attacking new austerity measures imposed as a condition of an international bailout. (...) >>>

May 4, 2010

This May Day item while Greece is in turmoil is more about the usual anarchistic violence then anything else (I'll replace it ASAP), but it's a reminder that - if the Socialist PASOK Government is to clean up its own mess dating back to 2003 - they'll have to do a Maggy sooner rather than later. Greece's unions are the UK miners on steroids -

Reuters: "Greek police fire tear gas in May Day protest clash"

May 1, 2010

Europe versus the welfare state Ponzi schemes -

PJM: "European Welfare State Model under Strain as Labor Tensions Rise", by Soeren Kern

Europe has been hit by a wave of industrial and social unrest in recent days and weeks, as workers across the continent push back against efforts to cut government spending and drive down wages. The uncoordinated strikes and protests, which have taken place in at least a dozen European countries and have threatened to paralyze much of the continent, may be a harbinger of more unrest to come. With much of Europe in or just barely out of recession and many millions of Europeans out of work and collecting welfare checks, governments large and small are scrambling to fix gaping budget holes in an effort to stave off financial disaster.

In Spain, for example, the government spent twice as much as it took in during 2009, with unemployment benefits constituting the largest single component of government expenditures. Many other European countries are in a similar bind. Indeed, with millions of long-term unemployed Europeans on track to becoming permanent wards of the state, the European social model is under strain as never before. (...) even if European publics are in denial about the future viability of the European social welfare state, a growing number of European governments seem to be acknowledging, albeit reluctantly, that their social and economic model is unsustainable. Strange, then, that many Americans view the European model as something to emulate rather than avoid. What follows is a brief summary of some of the strikes and protest movements to hit Europe in recent days (...) >>>

Feb. 28, 2010

Performing "a Maggy" in France, at your peril!

Our friends the French have finally managed to cross the fine line separating demonstration and striking rights from criminal behavior. It was a matter of time. It probably has something to do with the Rousseau inspired brand of revolutionary zeal, which goes along with a mentality in which 'the end justifies the means'.

Below is a link to a story of union members threatening to blow up a factory'; Dutch newspaper De Pers (no English language article as yet available) has it that: "French workers at a Michelin factory and an American manufacturer of cigarette paper Tuesday and Wednesday took several managers hostage. All were released shortly afterwards."

The Car Connection: "New Tactic For Unions On Strike: Threaten To Blow Up Factory"

Now a few members of GCT, the French auto workers union, have come up with a new and novel technique to keep their jobs--or at least to get a better buyout. They're threatening to blow up their workplace if they don't. French partsmaker New Fabris declared bankruptcy in April and closed altogether in mid-June, meaning its employees will receive unemployment payments but no severance money.

Last week, several dozen of its 360 workers occupied the company's parts plant outside Chatellerault, in the southwest of France. The factory is thought to contain about $5 million of parts and machinery. The strikers want 30,000 Euros (roughly $42,000) each from New Fabris clients Renault and PSA Peugeot-Citroen to walk away from the threat. Both companies say it is not their responsibility to take care of their suppliers' workers. (...) >>>

July 23, 2009

... the following are excerpts from a comprehensive article - for complete appreciation we recommend reading it in its entirety ...

WSJ: "Obama Is the Anti-Thatcher", by Andrew Wilson

The Democratic Party Convention in Denver has been called political theater, but it was really a masquerade ball. Again and again, speakers invoked the language of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan -- stressing the value of hard work and responsibility for self and family -- while advancing a set of pro-union and collectivist economic policies. If today's Democrats had their way, they would put the United States in the same approximate position as pre-Thatcher Britain, when the streets of London were choked with garbage because of a strike by sanitation workers and Britain was known around the world as "the sick man of Europe." (...)

When Mrs. Thatcher became Britain's prime minister in 1979, she assumed leadership of a country that had been devastated by several decades of ruinous economic and social policies. This was due to the same aversion to competition and international trade, and the same misplaced faith in the ability of government to act as the engine of progress and the guarantor of jobs. (...) One has to wonder who Mr. Obama thinks he is to suppose he'd be able to make so many correct calls in directing investment flows in one industry after the next while sitting in the White House. (...) The Labour Party politicians in Britain who came to power at the end of World War II shared the same enthusiasm for government direction and micromanagement of the economy. Like the Democratic Party of today, the Labour Party of yesteryear was obsessed with the issue of job security and fearful of competition from abroad. (...)
In revitalizing the British economy, Mrs. Thatcher lightened regulation, reduced trade barriers, privatized a raft of publicly owned companies, lowered taxes (especially for the most highly taxed, which is to say those at higher income levels), and went to battle against the powerful trade-union bosses in order to establish greater democracy within the unions. She outlawed the closed shop and required ballots before strikes and ballots in the election of trade-union leaders. One thing she did not do was to set a goal of full employment -- insisting that "jobs (in a free society) depend not on government but upon satisfying customers."

Contra Mr. Obama, she also stated: "The fact is that in a market economy government does not -- and cannot -- know where jobs will come from: If it did know, all those interventionist policies for 'picking winners' and 'backing success' would not have picked losers and compounded failure." (...) If, under an Obama presidency, the unions succeed in organizing Wal-Mart -- now the biggest target in their sights -- it will have one entirely predictable result: not the protection of jobs but the destruction of jobs by slowing or stopping Wal-Mart's growth. Nor will it help U.S. consumers if Wal-Mart is forced to hang out new signs saying "Everyday High Prices." >>>

Updated: 4th Sep 2008
Times Online: "Weakened Gordon Brown gives in to union demands - Concessions on minimum wage and time off" (cartoon by Peter Brookes)

Gordon Brown has caved in to unions, allowing a series of concessions - including an extension of the minimum wage - in a move that sent shudders through the business community. Coming days after Labour’s humiliating defeat in the Glasgow East by-election, it also puts pressure on the Prime Minister’s weakened position. Dave Prentis, the Unison general secretary, hailed the deal as a return to Labour’s “core values”. (...) Business leaders gave warning that the measures, which include new rights to time off, would hit companies’ ability to compete during an economic downturn. Changes to the minimum wage in particular could cost businesses an extra £88 million a year.

The party also agreed to extend parental leave and to impose new limits on private contractors to the Health Service. (...) Neil Carberry, head of employment policy at the CBI, said: “During an economic slowdown business can’t bear the burden of increased regulation. The flexibility of Britain’s labour market is an important competitive advantage.” >>>

Updated: 27th July 2008

Spiegel Online Int'l: "Massive Strikes ahead of Greek Pension Reform Vote" - Hat tip: Phantis

With a critical pension reform vote set for Thursday, millions of workers walked off the job in Greece to protest the plan. Thousands rallied in both Athens and Thessaloniki. Greece was hamstrung Wednesday as millions of workers walked off the job to protest pension reforms being considered by the country's conservative government. Around 10,000 people gathered in central Athens at a rally to protest a bill that would re-structure Greece's debt-ridden pension scheme. (...) >>>

Updated: 19th Mar 2008
...Progressives - so conservative!
Reuters: "Greek unions walk out over pension reform bill" - Hat tip: Phantis

Greek public transport halted, flights were disrupted and public services shut down during a three-hour walkout on Wednesday by unions opposing a pension reform bill they say hurts their benefits. Private and public sector workers walked off the job at 1000 GMT. State carrier Olympic airlines scrapped seven flights and rescheduled three so workers could take part in the strike action. Lawyers, doctors, port workers and engineers joined in. (...) >>> ... photos of bargage heaps will follow ...

Updated: 12th Mar 2008

The Wall Street Journal: "French Street Fight"

Congested streets and idle trains are a familiar sight in France. But the huge transport strike, which paralyzed the country for over a week, could be one of the (...) >>>

The following items provide some background to the dossier

- Telegraph: "David Cameron vows to repeat Thatcher's attack on unions"

- Palgrave: "The Politics of the Thatcher Revolution - An Interpretation of British Politics 1979 - 1990", by Geoffrey K. Fry

- ConservativeHome: "David Cameron to invoke the spirit of Thatcher in challenging the vested interests in the unions - and the big banks, with a bank tax"

- Iain Macwhirter Now and Then: "Margaret Thatcher. My Part In Her Downfall"

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