A better world is possible
A while back I had a heated debate over much beer with a dear friend about whether or not we, in Britain, live in a democracy. I was minded to recall that evening’s topic of taproom discussion when watching the news and reading much of our printed media this week as those in power, including those behind the news outlets, attempt to pour scorn on those having the tenacity to actually stand up for the their jobs and professions by daring to carry out the heinous act of striking.
The BBC and ITV, alongside the usual culprits of the right wing press, have led with report after report about the potential disruption caused, with seldom an explanation of what the public servants will actually be striking over on Thursday. They have been backed by the unelected elite masquerading as a ‘democratic’ government and even by the pathetic figures leading the so-called opposition, who owe their party’s very existence to the unions they are seemingly now demonising.
There have been the predictable stories about how much union leaders earn and how much their pensions are worth (how dare they get paid such amounts for looking after a membership of millions and working 60 hour weeks?), as well as stories of how many schools will be closing and how people will have to get a day off work to look after the kids, or maybe put the latest episode of Jeremy Kyle on Sky Plus instead of watching it live. Meanwhile, the teachers and civil servants (and we’re talking about those in jobs that are traditionally filled by people originally of working class backgrounds, not the six-figured salary bands) struggle to get their message across.
Oh, and we are also being told that strike laws will be tightened. How dare we try and stand up for ourselves? Bring the shackles back and while we’re at it, let’s get kids back working in factories from the age of five. Now we’re talking. The Independent, for example, today has an article saying that the majority of their readers (50 per cent to 32 per cent – ironically given the subject matter and seemingly crucial obsession with getting over 50 per cent of anything for it to be legit) agree that union laws need to be strengthened. I’m willing to bet that over 50 per cent of their readership aren’t even in a union and see no reason to be.
Let’s put the workers’ views over, because I’m willing to bet that not many of you have been made aware of them without having to do some research. I only know because my mam is striking (she’s an admin worker). In short the Tories want to extend the working age to 68 – life expectancy has risen, we are told. This may be true in Tunbridge Wells, but in Manchester, or Liverpool, it has actually remained virtually the same, if not reduced, for a very long time.
The Tories want to up the amount public servants pay into their pensions, while giving them less when they finally retire. Workers are also fighting job cuts in many sectors as part of the ‘austerity measures’ we are suffering in order to fulfil the Tory ideology. It’s an assault on workers’ rights and has seen ongoing discussions for most of 2011, without any compromise from those in power. Six months of trying to avoid striking has proved fruitless. Strike action has not been taken lightly and many unions, particularly in the teaching profession, are striking for the first time in their 100 year history. If you read the press you’d think the decision has been taken overnight by a load of slapped arse teachers. It’s borderline libellous.
Public servants, those who work for you and me, for the benefit of US and our children, are being made to pay for the follies of the capitalist beasts who prowl across our lands unchecked and at will. Why not go after the bonuses and perks of the bankers and those of similar ilk who actually played the biggest part in putting us into the financial situation we’re in? It’s akin to imprisoning a cleaner for breaking his arm due to his bosses’ failure to ensure his safety.
The Tories have once again played it superbly by not only galvanising their usual allies (bosses, the media and even Richard bleeding Branson, who’s got stuck into his airline staff today and tried to tempt them into ‘one on one meetings’ – a typical boss’s anti-union tactic) but they have also managed to con many people who should know better. Working and unemployed alike are slating those taking part in industrial action, when they should be fully behind them and taking up their own fights. The Labour party is nowhere.
Workers have precious few rights in this country as it is. Striking is one of them. It’s a last resort. Always has been. It’s the one greatest power we have over those that shackle us. Our labour. They can’t make money if there is no one doing the work for them. They hate it. They fear it. They attempt to divide us so that it can’t happen. It is one of the reasons they don’t want anyone working for the state and would rather see everyone employed privately – as they have less employment protection. They therefore use all the tactics they can to put people off withdrawing their labour by striking. And in this apathetic and beat down nation that we have become, many are taking it lying down.
Don’t. Even if you’re not a public servant and therefore won’t be striking on Thursday, support those that are and fight for your own rights in your own workplace. Stand up and be counted and stand up in support of democracy.
British workers already suffer under the toughest anti-union laws in Europe. As a union representative with much experience of industrial battles with management, I can vouch for how hard it is to take industrial action due to the plethora of flame-tipped hoops we have to jump through already. If they make it harder to strike by bringing in a minimum turnout for ballots, for example, they are effectively removing a right we should all possess. That’s not democracy. Neither is having a government, that was not elected, arrogantly bringing such changes in.
The Tories act like they have a divine right to rule, because that is their background and their ideology. Roughly a third of people who voted (turnout was 65 per cent in England and as low as 57 per cent in occupied Ireland) elected them. Taking turnout into consideration – less than a quarter of the country. If they followed their own anti-union proposals they wouldn’t be in government as their share of the vote was miles behind the 50 per cent rule they hope to instigate. That’s what we’re up against. That and the same press that rushes to slam places like Cuba over its lack of democracy is holding up a state that treats its own workers with far less respect than that bunch of so-called commie extremists.
The cold, hard fact of the matter is – all workers should be fighting to enjoy the rights that public sector workers have had for many years. There should not be a campaign to bring public servants’ pay and pensions in line with those in the private sector, it should be the complete opposite. All workers should be looked after. In a true democracy that would be the case.