» Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tube Strike

Asked the Prime Minister’s view of today’s tube strike, the PMOS said the Prime Minister believed that such strikes were unnecessary and should be resolved through proper talks between managers and the workforce. Asked if the Prime Minister was sympathetic to the idea of outlawing strike action on London Underground, the PMOS repeated that this was a matter which should be left to the management and workforce to sort out between themselves. It went without saying that strikes, such as the one today, served no purpose.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. Why on earth should the Government outlaw strikes?

    If Managers will not engage in meaningful negotiations then workers have the right to withdraw labour. If this causes inconvenience for others then this adds to the pressure on managers to make a more reasonable offer. Managers, unlike union leaders, are not elected and so workers do not get the chance to get rid of the incompetent idiots or money grabbing despots who tend to inhabit the world of the senior executive. Strikes are one of the earliest, and still most important, forms of democratic activity.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 30 Jun 2004 on 4:22 pm | Link
  2. Have no fear, the government would LIKE to outlaw strikes. However, it is disingenious of the PM (or his spokesperson) to suggest that strikes serve no purpose. They do. They serve to piss people off to the extent that the first Underground employee I see outside of a train cab will going home with a re-arranged nose…

    That aside, it is small wonder that British management in particular, and the whole management culture in general, are so resistant to work force demands when the government condemns out of hand the democratic right to strike. The government should either keep quiet, or if they HAD to say something, they could have (should have) pointed out that it is the democratic right of a workforce to strike if they are dissatisfied with their management (incidentally, could someone show me a company where the staff are actually IMPRESSED with the management?!?!)

    It seems to me that modern management, or rather the term "modern management" is a complete oxymoron. Managers do not manage at all. They protect their position, then when that is safe they spend the rest of their time looking out for their mates and playing golf. Managers take credit for ideas and work that isn’t theirs. Managers assume they have to be right in any argument, not because they ARE right but because they can pull rank. And unfortunately, this self-serving management culture goes all the way to the top of the country.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 30 Jun 2004 on 5:36 pm | Link
  3. Before the suppression of the Unions the main problem with union / management negotiations was that the managers were weak and didn’t understand the unions. This led to silly agreements where weak and ignorant managers caved in to union demands.
    So the governments and managers blamed the unions for their superior negotiating skills and somehow convinced the population at large that it was the fault of the unions.

    As an aspiring manager, in my youth, it was impossible to find anyone who could train me in the culture and operation of unions or how to negotiate with them.
    I was being pressurised to join the largest branch of NALGO in the gas industry and agreed on the condition that I was given a seat on the branch executive board – which was agreed and implemented.
    The training that I received from inside the union was invaluable and stood me in good stead for the rest of my working days as a manager and director.

    From the outside looking in it appears that managers are still, generally, piss poor and have no concept of the inner workings of unions or the psychology of the union representative.

    Its too easy for people to believe the ‘spin’ that the unions are BAD and the managers are Victims whilst history documents the opposite.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 1 Jul 2004 on 11:27 am | Link
  4. The problem is, the unions of today aren’t the unions of yesteryear. Back then, corporations regularly took advantage of employees and levered them into untenable positions as a matter of policy and good business management.

    These days, that isn’t good business management. These days, more and more, the disputes that surface are about protecting…

    – Employees who’ve been off ‘sick’ a hundred days in a year being spotted doing pretty healthy stuff
    – Employees caught herding empty beer cans like they missed their calling and were born to have been the next Little Bo Peep
    – A complete and total unwillingness to change
    – Aggressive holdouts for 30% pay raises
    – Insistence that above-inflation improvements in pay should always be completely unrelated to changes in expectations of performance or widening in job scope.

    Let’s be frank. These days have more in common with the demise of the Teamsters and unions like them than they do with the creation and meteoric rise of it.

    The only thing that prevents the businesses dependent on these unions from shutting down entirely and replacing all union staff with non-union staff is eventually going to fall away; at this point, the unions will become nigh-on meaningless. They get to decide for themselves whether or not they want that future for themselves.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 1 Jul 2004 on 12:54 pm | Link
  5. Gregory, I am alarmed at your overly simplistic view of the reasons behind industrial action. I know that this is how the media presents the issues but I thought you would have taken the time to look at what was really going on.

    Unions are quite right to stand up and defend people who have been sacked without good reason or without following agreed procedures – regardless of what those people have been accused of doing (accusations often based on little if any evidence).

    The 30% payrises you mention are usually for workers in the public sector. Workers who saw their comparitive (and sometimes actual) pay eroded under the Conservative government and believed that a Labour government would recognise the value of public servants and make up for what they had lost over the previous 20 years. Unions don’t expect to get the 30% rise in one year but they do expect recognition of the erosion of public sector pay and some action by government to reverse the trend. Everyone always complains about public sector workers but non of them ever chose to move to the public sector because they know how poor the pay is.

    Why should pay rises be linked to changes in performance? Why aren’t they linked to changes in profits? Companies announce record profits and record pay rises for senior executives and then still complain about workers asking for an above inflation pay rise. Profits aren’t linked to inflation so why should wages?

    The thing that prevents companies sacking all of their union staff and replacing them is the law. One of the great advances of ‘civilisation’ is that the weak are protected from the strong. Just because you are rich and own the business doesn’t give you the right to oppress people who work for you – they have a right to join together to provide a balance through unions and industrial action.

    The gap between rich and poor is growing wider and the unions have an imporatant role in reversing that. You only have to take a brief skim through history to realise that if the gap continues to widen then protests will become much more extreme and violent.

    Comment by Uncarved Block — 1 Jul 2004 on 1:35 pm | Link
  6. The difference between you and I is that you believe that modern unions are everything they ever were; whereas I see them as nothing more than the institutions they have become, and no less corrupt than the companies they once battled with to protect the rights of their employees.

    We can both agree that unions can be a powerful solution and deterrent to bad corporate behavior; we can disagree that the unions of old have anything morally in common with the unions of today.

    Unless the unions clean up their act, it’ll go the way of Caterpillar.

    Comment by Gregory Lightyear — 1 Jul 2004 on 10:24 pm | Link
  7. I don’t think much has really changed – its just that there is more transparency.

    The most useful thing I learnt from being inside NALGO was that branch officials had ideals until they got real power – then they got ambition. The further that they rose in the hierarchy the more corrupt and self centered they became.

    I finally resigned when the National Executive, fearful of having their assets frozen, declared that a political strike that we [the gas industry] were pursuing was ‘actually’ a pay dispute.

    Much of the good work that the Unions did is now enshrined in protective employment legislation but there are daily injustices that, but for the action of ground floor union reps who still have ideals, would go unchallenged. It is these types of challenges that sometimes result in strikes. We just never hear about the issues that are resolved.

    My experiences taught me to never believe what the employers or the Union head office say about a dispute – by the time that issues reach that level they have been distorted and corrupted to suit the careers of the publicly visible participants.

    Comment by Roger Huffadine — 3 Jul 2004 on 7:11 pm | Link

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