The Children! Think of the Children!

As many of you may know we have a public sector strike coming up on Wednesday. Inevitably the Tory’s are jumping from “well go on strike! See how we care! It’s not as if you work that hard anyway” to “my god! What are you thinking! The country will grind to a halt and be overrun by Immigrants…and Terrorists! AAAAHHHH!”. Inevitably the going on strike of the Passport workers has the Daily Mail types in a tizzy. Think about it, to them this is they’re worst nightmare come true, the UK border door wide open for every Terrorist / Immigrant / Foreigners (all the same think to them!) to walk in (course nearly half the time I go through passport control there’s nobody there!). The Army has been dispatched to airports…thought exactly what they are supposed to do there is unclear!

Meanwhile Louise Mensch (the Tory’s official party bimbo), has suggested that parents be allowed take their kids into work to beat the strikes. I don’t think she’s considered the practicalities of this. Not to put too fine a point on it, but while most parents may well think that little darling Johnny is adorable, to the rest of us he’s a noisy, annoying (and likely smelly) distraction. The last think I need, nor want in work, is to have some little rug rat running around the office. I suspect I’d just take the day off in that case (so effectively, I’d be joining the strike on account of someone’s sprog!) And I don’t see how you’re going to get a kid to sit still through a 1 hour business meeting, or in my line of work, a 2 hour lecture on finite element analysis? And what if I need to go work in the lab…. and fire up my Class 4 laser! “daddy I can’t see out of my left eye & my hair’s on fire!”

In essence what Lousie Mensch and the Tory’s are basically doing is invoking Children’s interests “the Children, the Children, dear god will somebody please think of the Children…who will now suffer do to the evils of these work shy unions!” Its the political equivlent of Godwins law.

The Tory’s need to accept the fact that despite their best efforts, they and the Lib dems have to take some of the blame for these strikes. If there’s one golden rule of management its don’t fuck with people’s pensions, it always causes problems, the social equivalent of shouting paedophile in a parent / teacher meeting. While I think the unions do need to accept that the generous pension plans handed out to past generations are now unsustainable, there are better ways of handling this. And the Tory’s by stonewalling the unions and threatening to change the strike laws hasn’t helped. Indeed they’ve stirred up a hornets nest.

Also these strikes, while officially about pensions are also about the cuts, which will inevitably see many public sector workers rendered unemployed. Now that would be bad enough if it weren’t becoming clear that the Tory’s plan to reward their toff buddies with a generous tax cut. Already they are cooking up the ridiculous suggestion that dropping the 50p tax would help the UK get through the impending Eurozone debt crisis (the nerve of them!). To the unions it looks like their members, plus the working and middle classes in general are going to carry the can for these cuts, while the Tory’s friends get a hand out. And as I’ve pointed out, while raising taxes for the wealthy would help, to be honest, just getting them to pay they’re taxes would be enough! Consider that the report in the Observer that discussed One Hyde Park, a trendy plush London hang out for the super rich (one of the most expensive and exclusive addresses in the world). Of the 62 properties in the development, only 9 have registered to pay council tax, and only two stamp duty.

Strike Breakers
Also this business of changing the strike laws is completely heavy handed and likely to be counter productive. They’ve made it practically impossible to strike these days as it is and such a rule will make the situation worse. It will encourage management to meddle, by getting manager to join unions (or temporarily hiring people off the street!), to stack the deck of unions to make raising a 50% vote in favour of striking impossible (and they won’t even have to vote, by not voting they’d deny the union its quorum). Of course, the unions will likely respond by meddling themselves, restricting membership to only line workers, break up unions into smaller specialised unions (the exact reverse of what managers want as it means more unions to negotiate with and a higher likelihood of strikes as pleasing everyone proves impossible), or by making voting in strike ballot compulsory. This last one would be an obvious way around the government’s strike law. The union arranges for two strike ballot to be held one after another. If they don’t get the 50% in the first ballot, anyone who failed to vote is stuck off the union roll for the second, which likely passes with a good majority.

Worse, if workers lack the means to enforce their rights through a union, then the chances of wild cat strikes and walk outs are greatly increased. It’s worth remembering why we have laws guaranteeing the right to strike. Because back in the bad old days before such rules, strikes tended to be messy, unplanned and often violent affairs. Unions, aware that they would be sacked if caught organising, met in secret. The first management would often know of a strike was when everyone walked off the job. Managers would often hire “scab” labourers to fill in, as well as strike breakers to literally break the strikers by force. Of course the striking workers would respond with violence in kind. This was an era when sabotaging the factory or fire bombing you’re boss’s house was consider a normal part of industrial relations. Next time a Tory talk’s to you about “class warfare” tell him to read a history book.

Indeed it was the lack of effective protections for unionised workers in the US, that drove the Teamsters under Jimmy Hoffa into the arms of the mafia. So my question to Boris Johnson is, which do you prefer, the tube not running for 48 hrs or waking up with a horse’s head in you’re bed …and a couple of senior tories having themselves a little “accident” (why people step into basins of ready mix concrete and then fall in the river all the time!).

“Oh how I wish we’d listened to that man (union organiser)…instead of walling him up in the old cement silo” – Mr Burns

So yes, while Wednesday’s strikes will be a bit inconvenient for everyone, society is not going to come to an end, and it’s a small price to pay given the alternatives.

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