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Thread: The Unions

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by massrock View Post
    Well maybe, and it would be interesting to see, but I mean as compared to the amount of value extracted from the economy by people and organisations that profit from war, manipulate markets and economic systems, exploit conditions of poverty in other countries etc. Pretty sure the London Underground payroll hardly compares.
    Obviously those are all bad things, but the fact that a bigger problem exists elsewhere does not mean that a smaller problem closer to home doesn't matter. You can't just say "What about war? What about starving Africans?" every time someone brings up some domestic political issue. Well of course you can, but it's not very constructive.

    Quote Originally Posted by massrock View Post
    So it's perceived effect on fare prices when they see what tube workers are paid that bothers people then?
    As you say, it's probably not a 'straight equation', but the two are surely not uncorrelated.

    But this is kind of by-the-bye as the recent strike wasn't over wages in any case. I'm not against people making a decent living, just saying that it's understandable that there isn't widespread public support for Tube strikes given (amongst other things) the cost of travelling on it.
    Last edited by Mr. Tea; 09-09-2010 at 10:17 AM.
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  2. #17
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    It took me a while to get my head round this, but public support isn't actually the issue.

    The negotiation is between the union and management.

    The inconvenience caused to the public is a bargaining tool which emphasises the importance of the work being done and the gravity of the situation (nobody goes on strike lightly, despite what "common sense" and the media tell you).

    In this negotiation, the function of the RMT is to get the best deal for its members and to defend their working conditions. The function of managment is to generate as much profit as possible.

    There is a role for PR in there, for sure - there was massive public support for the ambulance drivers when they went out on strike in the late eighties/early nineties and more recently the fire brigade had a much more mixed reaction than the tube drivers.

    Public support obviously helps management look like tools but ultimately neither they nor the union is out to make friends.

  3. #18
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    Coming at it from another angle - the media in this country is unbelievably hostile to unions. They are hardly ever given free reign to state their case (how many people think the recent strike is about wages?).

    Even if the RMT did want to embark on a PR campaign they would need to plough huge resources into it - resources which could be spent defending their members interests.

    And they'd be heavily criticised for paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to PR agencies (everyone knows what Bob Crow earns, AND IT'S A SCANDAL! Who even knows who the heads of LRT are, and what they earn?)

  4. #19
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    Mike Brown, Managing Director, London Underground (pay: 289,000)

    An actual cunt

  5. #20
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    If you're lucky enough to be in a job where you can join a union you'd be a fool not to quite frankly. The first thing in did in my present job was pick up a security pass, the second was find out the name of my union rep.

    "United we stand, divided we're lumbered." As Harry Flowers so eloquently put it in the film Performance.

  6. #21
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    Not to mention being in a country where you can join a union. At least for now.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by john eden View Post
    Coming at it from another angle - the media in this country is unbelievably hostile to unions. They are hardly ever given free reign to state their case (how many people think the recent strike is about wages?).
    this is so incredibly true it needs restating loudly and often.

    back in the spring there was a Network Rail strike ballot. i'm going to quote in full two sanely bang-on-the-money letters that appeared in the Guardian around that time.

    The media treatment of RMT and Bob Crow over the last 48 hours over the Network Rail strike ballot has been the worst example of a concerted campaign of media bias against a trade union that we have seen since the 1980s miners' strike. John Humphrys's interview of Bob Crow, with his references to ballot-rigging, and the BBC's subsequent headline of "RMT's Bob Crow denies ballot rigging", was that disgusting classic of the old hack lawyer's tactic of asking the defendant: "When did you stop beating your wife?"

    Even the Guardian's editorial (2 March) ignorantly weighed in with "No union that conducts its ballots properly according to the reasonable requirements of the law would be in danger of being injuncted." This reference to "reasonable requirements of the law" is patent rubbish. To hold a ballot the union must construct and supply the employer with a detailed and complex matrix of information setting out which members it is balloting, their job titles, grades, departments and work locations. The employer is under no obligation to co-operate with the union to ensure this is accurate. If there is the slightest inaccuracy, even where it did not affect the result, the ballot is open to being challenged by the employer and quashed by the courts.

    There can be no question of the union ballot-rigging or interfering in the balloting process because it is undertaken by an independent scrutineer, usually the Electoral Reform Society, and all ballot papers are sent by post to the homes of the members being balloted, and returned to the ERS for counting. The union at no time handles the ballot papers.

    On at least four occasions in the last three years I have tried in parliament on behalf of RMT and other TUC-affiliated unions to amend employment law to require employers to co-operate with unions in the balloting process so these problems can be overcome. Employers' organisations, the Conservatives and the government have all opposed this reform.

    The result is not fewer strikes but a deteriorating industrial relations climate as people become increasingly angry that their democratic wishes are frustrated by one-sided anti-trade-union laws.

    John McDonnell MP
    The injunction granted against the RMT after the application by Network Rail continues a worrying trend. Of the 36 applications for injunctions in the past five years of which the vast majority were granted all but seven concerned strikes in transport, prisons or Royal Mail. This is because strikes in these organisations have an immediate impact on the employer's operations. So, it can be concluded, there is now very little right to hold an effective strike in Britain.

    Unions must do their utmost to put the positive right to strike as high up the election agenda as possible.

    Professor Gregor Gall

    University of Hertfordshire

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kate Mossad View Post
    If you're lucky enough to be in a job where you can join a union you'd be a fool not to quite frankly.
    I think that's a large part of the problem when it comes down to public support.

    To paint with very broad brushstrokes, in the beginning there was the industrial revolution and mass urbanisation of the UK. That created a huge class of urban labourers who were pretty much universally exploited and subjected to working conditions that had a massively detrimental effect on the quality of life of them and their families.

    Then unionism began to grow, especially in the first quarter of the twentieth century. If you worked in manufacture or associated industries, it would probably have been possible for you to be unionised. The amount of good this would have done is obviously up for debate; governments and employers have taken hard stands against unions for as long as they have existed. The point is, though, that unions were formed to address the needs of workers in the industries that employed most people.

    Since the mid-twentieth century though, there has been a widespread de-industrialisation in this country. This has led to conflict between unions and government and between unions and companies. But, more importantly, the shift to an economy where a huge proportion of the jobs are in service industries has absolutely not been accompanied by a rise in service-sector unions. So you have a situation where the people in the demographic of lowest-skilled workers (likely to be the people who enjoy the least economic security and lowest quality of life, and thus whose interests are most in need of defending) have gone from being mostly unionised to being mostly without any kind of labour organisation to represent their interests.

    Obviously there are all kinds of other developments that feed into this topic (creation of the minimum wage, British and European legislation on working conditions, etc.), but the fact remains that being part of a unionised workforce is a foreign experience for most of the millions of people who are employed in the private sector in modern Britain, and so it's not all that surprising that public sympathy for unions isn't all that forthcoming sometimes. Doubly so in a period when private sector workers have to bear the full brunt of a recession, but where public sector workers (by virtue both of being government employees and by being more likely to be unionised) seem to have an extra layer of protection shielding them from the impact of the nation/world's economic problems.

    I think that, for anybody interested in workers' rights and interests in twenty-first century Britain, the key question is how to secure a better settlement for workers who have grown up in a world where traditional trade unions are of ever decreasing relevance to the fields of employment of the majority.

  9. #24
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    It's OK everyone, no need to worry about inconvenient ideological or employment rights theories, strikes actually improve capitalist efficiency, check it out!
    http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/Depart...ground-network

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