HUNDREDS of thousands of union members have been out on strike in the past few days. Did you notice? Probably not.
Because not only was it difficult to get any understanding of just how many people actually stopped work in the action over pay organised by Unison and Unite, it was also next to impossible to spot any real impact made by those who did.
Households unlucky enough to be among the few who did not have their bins emptied would have been mildly inconvenienced of course. As would families with children at schools which were bafflingly closed because classroom assistants walked out. Do these establishments have no teachers?
And if our lives were not thrown into chaos by the temporary absence of librarians and museum curators then they certainly were not turned upside down because of the stoppage, in a quite separate dispute, by workers at the Land Registry and the Identity and Passport Office.
The fact is that the public sector is now so vast it accounts for around six million people. That's one in 10 of us. Almost half of all the jobs created since New Labour came to power have been paid for out of public funds in an exercise aimed at sweeping hundreds of thousands of people into hardly necessary low paid posts, financed by the taxpayer, in order to drive down unemployment figures.
Now this vast army of assistants, deputy assistants and support workers are discovering just how cynical that exercise really was.
Because if they were to win pay increases to match soaring inflation many of them will simply find themselves back on the street again. Not picketing but picking up the dole.