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Shell settlement triggers fears of summer of discontent

Shell settlement triggers fears of summer of discontent

The Shell tanker drivers’ agreement has spared the country a repetition of the four day strike which left hundreds of forecourts dry.

Government moves to quell summer of discontent fears
Striking shell drivers won a settlement

They won a 14 per cent settlement over two years in a deal which has dwarfed other pay awards in recent years.

It has raised fears that this could trigger a summer of discontent and privately some Labour MPs fear that the Government is in for a difficult few months.

“This really is going to sound some alarm bells in Downing Street,” one said on Wednesday night.

“It is going to make settling public sector claims difficult.”

But John Hutton, the Business Secretary, tried to dampen fears of a summer of discontent.

“There needs to be discipline in public and private sector pay if we are to keep inflation under control,” he said.

However the Confederation of British Industry, believes that the next few months could prove difficult, even if the country is unlikely to face a repetition of the militancy of the 1970s.

“That said people’s real living standards are being squeezed by higher fuel, food and commodity costs,” said John Cridland, the CBI’s deputy director general.

“So, there will be calls for higher wage increases and negotiations are going to get tougher.

Jim Arrowsmith, Professor of Industrial Relations and Warwick Business School, predicted that it will be highly skilled workers who are most likely to see the Shell deal as a benchmark.

“Pressure will be greatest in some of the privatized companies such as the utility and railway companies.

“Skilled workers also enjoy the greatest leverage. But elsewhere in the service sector, where unions are weak, there won’t be as much of a problem.”

Recent months have seen a wave of strikes and threatened strike, with the Rail Maritime and Transport transport union (RMT) in the vanguard of many disputes.

Last weekend thousands of railway maintenance workers staged a 36-hour strike over “terms and conditions”, regarded within the industry as a backdoor pay claim.

Next week the union’s 230 members working at 19 major stations will join managers, who are members of the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association, in a 24 hours walk out over demands for a guarantee of no redundancies.

There is also growing restiveness within the civil service. Earlier this week members of the Public and Commercial Services Union working at the Science Museum in London staged a one-day strike.

Civil servants have also walked out at the Department of Work and Pensions.

Industrial action at the Department for Transport and its agencies also has seen a strike by driving examiners.

Mark Serwotka, the union’s general secretary, heralded the threat of increased militancy in a letter to Dave Prentis, leader of Unison, which represents 600,000 council government workers who are also threatening to go on strike.

The two unions are set to co-ordinate strikes in an attempt to wield greater muscle.

Mr Serwotka wrote: “The latest inflation figures show how vital it is that we secure pay increases which protect public servants from a cut in their living standards.

“We all face the consequences of the cap on public sector pay increases, and our best chance of beating the cap will come if we fight together.”

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