posted on Aug, 30 2007 @ 05:08 PM
Having followed the events regarding displeasure by many trade unions at the staggered pay increases for the public sector, I can't help but wonder
at how trade unions work in modern Britain.
When you look at it from a distance, a trade union can't win. We all know that the unions have a much more sympathetic ear from the Labour Party than
from the Conservatives... and yet sometimes - perhaps without fully realising it - they play right into the hands of the right and basically provide
the rope to hang themselves. Example?
It's winter 1978-79. Various trade unions across Britain go on strike, leading to three day weeks, fuel shortages, rubbish being left in the streets
and - in one morbid instance - the dead being left unburied. The events of that winter were the final, heavy nail in the coffin Jim Callaghan's
Labour government (no pun intended!) and at the election in May led to the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher taking power and, within a decade,
demolishing the power of the trade unions. I'm sure most of you know the story of the
in 1984, and perhaps have memories of it.
Are the trade unions further decreasing their power and influence in the long term? It might get their members a bigger slice of the pie now, but if
they push too hard it may result in further curbs on their influence (either by forcing Gordon Brown to push through some extra legislation or losing
him the next election and giving the Conservatives a chance to shake up industrial relations laws once again).
I don't think British people are as willing to tolerate disruption and strife on a grand scale any more. If it comes to the crunch, it's likely that
most British people will support clipping the wings of the trade unions rather than having to put up with strikes (especially in public services).
What do the rest of you think? Are the unions shooting themselves in the foot by strikes such as the one carried out by the prison officers (which was
actually illegal...)? Are they actually helping their members by taking action like this? Do strikes and unions even have a place in modern Britain?
If so, what should it be?