Outside the marginals

a commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010 & 2015 elections

Strikes and their effectiveness

From the website of one of the candidates for the General Secretaryship of Unite:

if I am General Secretary of Unite there will never be any strikes called over the Christmas holidays.

I find a strike a complete pain in the arse, but strikes exist as a backstop weapon for the trade unions to use when management are intransigent.  If they can prove that it is management that is being intransigent, the public should see the disruption as being due to management and not due to the trade unions.

So why the proposal to negotiate with one arm tied behind your back?

This proposal arises fairly clearly from the BA dispute.  If you work for BA and strike, there will be disruption to passengers (but surely that is management’s fault – see above).  Strikers will also lose pay.  So do you propose to strike at the point of maximum impact, confident in your case, and hopefully bring about a quick resolution, or do you strike when it doesn’t really matter to management? In slack periods if they had their way they would quite like to lay-off unneeded workers – so why do the work for them and have a long strike involving the loss of lots of pay?  If you are confident of your case announce that you will you strike at Christmas (and other holiday periods) and let the employer take the heat.

Likewise, if the London Fire-brigade workers believe they have a good case, make that case and announce that you will strike on Bonfire night – and let the employer take the heat (they do not have to literally take it – they can settle).  If you are not prepared to do that you obviously do not have confidence in your ability to make your case and striking at any time is pointless.

Strikes are brutal and nasty, but if they have to happen let’s have them nasty, brutish and short.


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