Spring of Slight Unease.

March 21, 2010

Reading the headlines this week you would be forgiven for thinking you had been transported back to the days of Arthur Scargill, with unions ‘bringing the country to its knees’. The trigger for this? Industrial action by the cabin crew of British Airways.

Apparently Brown is ‘owned’ by Unite, and his raison d’etre is to do Charlie Whelan’s bidding. David Cameron has been demanding that Brown order people to cross the picket lines, with Browns preference for treating this as an industrial dispute between a private company and their staff, clear evidence of his status as Unites ‘bitch’.

I had barely looked at the coverage of this dispute. British Airways Cabin Crew, in comparison to other airlines, enjoy favourable salaries and working conditions. British Airways have been operating in a hostile environment- between the impact of low cost flights, environmental concerns, fuel prices, and global terrorism, this has not been their decade. I am guessing this is not a black and white situation.

I believe in the right of people to withhold their labour – but employment rights do not exist in a vacuum, and sometimes economic realities have to take precedence..

I was taken aback by the revelation that Gordon Brown was the whipping boy of Unite.

Labour coming to power, to the best of my recollection, hadn’t resulted in any repeal of the legislation Margaret Thatcher used to crush the voice of the nations employees. In successive disputes  Labour has taken a tough line on industrial action-without exception favouring employers.

Who could forget the sight of John Prescott shouting down the Fire Unions? The willingness of Labour Ministers to damn the postal workers- striking for the right to an effective anti-bullying policy, and the right not to have to deliver junk mail, at a rate well below the minimum wage. I have lost count of the times that the Labour government has been willing to demonise some of our lowest paid public sector workers, sacrificing their salaries to fight erosion of our public services.

To be honest, as a union member, I had opted out of the political fund.  I had never understood why PCS and Unison continued to fund the Labour Party, when the contempt they had been shown since 1997 was evident. It says something about the unions, that while the fickle corporate funding of the Labour party has dissapeared, union funding remains.

The comparisons between the transparent support of Labour from unions, and the opaque influence over the Conservative party by Lord Ashcroft have been done to death. One does have to ask – is this demonization of trade unions not slightly misplaced?

We are not in the midst of an economic crisis, because Labour cow-towed to Unions.

The mess we are in  is a direct result of unquestioning support and lack of regulation for our financial sector. Tony Blair taking lucrative roles with oil companies who have commercial interests in Iraq raises questions. The sickening footage of Stephen Byers– ‘Minister for Hire’- alleging that he had on occasion  affected government policy on behalf of companies, raises questions about undue influence- but that is not influence bought by union money.

This is no ‘Winter of Discontent’-where industry has been crippled by dastardly socialists. We are in the middle of a situation  where the voice of the British people is barely audible over the caucophony of corporations.

We are facing the biggest public sector cuts since the inception of the welfare state. If I am honest, rabid little socialist that I am, I was depending on the fact that the one place British taxpayers still have an audible voice, is the unions who represent them. I  naively considered them as our last line of defence, hoping that their objections to the cuts we are facing would somehow minimise the effect of this recession on our most vulnerable people.

I forgot- ‘union’ is a dirty word.



  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lisaansell: The Spring of Slight Unease- https://deeplyflawedbuttrying.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/spring-of-slight-unease/ Blog post!…

  2. I agree, Lisa. As someone who is old enought to remember living through the original winter of dscontent and helping to vote in Maggie to sort it out – oh the shame! – I find all this latest demonising of the unions leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth, indeed. As you say, they are not the ones who got us into this mess at all and subtle or not so subtle attempts to shift the blame their way are transparent and unpleasant.

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