Friday, 18 July 2014

Not Often I Agree With Trade Unions, But...

From the Telegraph

Union bosses are to be stopped from holding “rolling” strikes and will only be able to stage walkouts with the support of 50 per cent of the workforce, under Conservative plans.

The Tories will legislate to ban rolling mandates, with a law that a strike must take place within three months of any ballot.

There will also be a legal requirement for a 50 per cent turnout threshold for any strike ballot to be lawful, ministers said.

I don't much like trade unions. I think they're antiquated organisations that came about in a time of limited mobility and our greater mobility has rendered them generally pointless. But I think people have a right to strike and to withdraw their Labour if they're reasonable about it.

And I also think that part of that membership includes a certain degree of being part of things. That you're part of the democratic system, that like parliamentary elections, you'll get what you're given if you don't turn up. We don't nullify elections or parliametary votes because not enough people turned up. If you can't be bothered, you're going to be ignored.

I think most of the reforms of the 80s like laws against secondary picketing and flash strikes are reasonable in terms of balancing the rights of workers and users of their services. It's reasonable that parents have notice of a strike to make arrangements. But from both a position of rights and reducing union power, we should allow strikes to happen.

You see, I like it when public sector employees with power strike because they generally turn the public against them. The tube strikes are making the public much more open to the idea of driverless trains on the Underground network. Point out how often private school teachers go on strike to a parent who's had to take a day off, you've got someone who is more likely to think that voucher schemes are a good idea.

So, trying to stop strikes is not only morally wrong, it's also bad for winning the hearts and minds of the public to accept reform.


Rich Tee said...

For the past year I have worked in a building next to a Fire Station. I pass it at least twice a day, and I can see it out of the office window.

In the past year on not one occasion have I seen or heard a fire engine going out on a call. Never even seen the doors open or an engine on the front courtyard.

Somebody said that modern fire protection techniques are so good that they simply don't have anything to do anymore. Even when I knew a fireman personally in the 1990s he had an extra job because he had so much spare time.

Yet there have been some forlorn notices outside over the past few days (with nobody stood by them) saying they are on strike over pay and pensions.

Bayard said...

"We don't nullify elections or parliametary votes because not enough people turned up."

Well, if we did, and applied the same rules as they want to to the unions, we wouldn't have this rotten shower in office. Or the other lot. In fact, it sounds like a capital idea.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Agreed, of course. But RT and B nail it.

The Stigler said...

You're pretty much right. We no longer have the coal fires, ropey electrics, 3 bar fires and valve TV sets. Our furniture is all flame retardent. Things are fused, we have smoke detectors. Plus, we all smoke less and cook less deep fried food.

The real problem is the simple majority voting system. There's evidence that marginal seats have a much higher turnout than safe ones.

Lola said...

It's the special privileges granted to unions that annoy me. It gives them a licence for coercion. And therefore I do not agree with the right to strike. If you don't like the pay and conditions, resign.

Lola said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Stigler said...


And the best way to deal with that is to get them to strike and get the public to accept alternative ways that will kill off the unions.

In my lifetime there's been 1 strike that was won without a longer-term loss which was the ambulancemen, who when they told people why had a lot of public support.

Teachers complaining they've hardly got a pay rise? Nor have lots of people for years.

Bayard said...

"The real problem is the simple majority voting system."

Well, that's a different problem, but if the main parties knew they had to get at least 50% of the electorate to vote for them, they'd have to try a lot harder. Even 50% of the vote would be a challenge in many constituencies, as would a 50% turn-out.

Anonymous said...

There are a couple of points worth making re unions, for the sake of balance if nowt else.
We already have a good deal of legislation regarding unions. More than most of our continental neighbours I believe. There could come a point whereby virtue of central diktat, unions are effectively made redundant since anything they might have done to 'effectively' represent their workforce might no longer be open to them. This sounds pretty authoritarian to me in principle. Hence I would be against any further legislation unless it was done in consultation with the unions.
For example, it's been pretty obvious for weeks now that unions have been calling on the coalition to consult with them over ways in which unions can get a larger number of their members to take part in ballots. ie; using workplace balloting [not show of hands]and internet ballots rather than just postal ballots, half of which get consigned to the recycle bin with the rest of the daily deluge of circulars. The government haven't responded to this sensible request because they couldn't give a flying f*k about the numbers taking part in ballots. They are just giving free reign to their despotic/authoritarian tendencies.
As an anti authoritarian I find this objectionable.

A second point is that one of the consequences of weakened unions is increased regulation. There's good reason and evidence to suggest that where unions retain some strength there is less need for regulation of the workplace. Unions would take care of concerns on a case by case basis. For example in Nordic countries strong unions have negated the need for minimum wage laws whereas in countries where union membership is weaker like France and Greece minimum wage legislation is favoured. It would be far more efficient to have unions with workplace backing and support than a one size fits all bible of regulatory requirements emanating from Whitehall.

DBC Reed said...

Of course in a poorly organised country you could have an economic revival where real wages go down because of the absence of union involvement.Followed by an absence of consumer demand and all the cheap credit being invested in property Could n't happen here then.

Lola said...

Overall, unions are an essential component in the nexus of enslavement that is what is described falsely as western liberal democracy. The 'state', the EU, the banks, large companies, landowners, big unions and the 'welfare state' are Randian evils enslaving us all. The unions place is to ensure a funding stream to its political wing and to provide as much opportunity for sinecures for its apparatchiks and to institutionalise as much producer capture as possible. The 'tories' (for want of a better word) need them to be able to pretend to do something about them, whilst not truly reforming them and their special privileges.

Ben Jamin' said...

As a compromise, how about <50% turn out, the right to picket is voided?

Kj said...

PaulC: there's a balance to the state-sanctioned strong unions thing as well. In the Nordics, unions are perfectly able to enact de-facto minimum wages that are unviable in less favoured areas. That's more or less the sole reason why we have variable employers NIC by areas.

Dinero said...

If the membership of the union in the workforce is 50% , and 50% of the union members cast a vote and a strike is called on the majority result of that vote , thats 50% again. That is a Strike from the vote of 50% * 50% * 50%.

That is 12%.