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Unions, strikes and their place in the UK

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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 Miners' Strike 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?

posted on Aug, 31 2007 @ 01:04 PM

Do strikes and unions even have a place in modern Britain? If so, what should it be?

You would think not, especially in the uber capitalist society of big business and privatisation we seem to have become where thinking up ever ingenious ways of making more money off Joe Public while keeping his wages as low as possible seems to be the norm. Economic prosperity translates only to those elite few who actually seem to benefit from it while the rest of us live either on the line or in debt.

My union is pretty useless from personal experience. I've been denied increments because I wont change to the new private companies contract, which seems acedemic anyway because despite having our pay and conditions protected at the handover we've now been informed it will only be a matter of time before they get around this.

[edit on 31-8-2007 by ubermunche]


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