Friday, July 18, 2008

Half a million on strike in the UK part 1

Hundreds of thousands of council workers went on a 48-hour strike on Wednesday across the UK in protest of the lower than inflation rate pay raise of 2.45%. The unions rejected what they termed as a pay cut with prices of utilities, food and other essential items outpacing what the government offered their members.

With more than half a million council workers involved, the strikes could have paralysed entire cities by removing services such as schools, leisure centres, museums, art galleries, theatres, nurseries, youth centres and other basic amenities (rubbish collection etc.). Also included are coastguard staff, driving centres.

Employers across the country braced themselves for the mother of all strikes, which somehow didn't materialise. Bosses claimed that around 100,000 took part in the strikes and only 8% of total workforce were affected. But will this be an inkling of what is to come?

The background for the strikes

There was a major crackdown on unions during the Thatcher era; images of policemen on horseback running through picket lines still haunt the nation. It was also a period when inflation was rampant and the Iron Lady did what she had to do. As a result, the people were forced to swallow the bitter pill and inflation was reined in.

With Labour in power, the unions, which traditionally form the party's bedrock of support, grew stronger year after year. It was not too bad during the Blair years when years of prosperity saw income increasing steadily. Brown's taking over marked the end of a bountiful era with credit crunch and rocketing oil prices.

With cost of living increasing, there were talks of industrial action by unions representing different segments of the workforce. The Labour Party, not wanting to incur the wrath of their traditional supporters, failed to quell those dissenting voices. Instead of putting down the first of the strikes, Labour compromised and gave in to the union's demands. As a result, other unions follow suit and that led to the council workers going on the 48 hour strike.

more to come... Will it work? and Endgame...



Share/Bookmark Pin It

london+in+a+weekend

16 comments:

Jasmine Shanea said...

Wow... if only I could be able to catch a glimpse of a strike. The only thing that comes to resembling a strike in Singapore is the Hello Kitty line up at Mcdonalds a long long time ago. lol

eastcoastlife said...

Singapore is unlikely to have a strike. Every body so scared.

But it is not good to have strikes because many people's lives would be affected and the economy loses out.

C K said...

@jasmine shanea,
Eh... I can assure you that it's really not pleasant when your rubbish is left uncollected...

btw, are you one of those who queued up the last time round for Hello Kitty? :)

C K said...

@ecl,
Well, if everyone is as enlightened as you. But really, that works only if the people has got complete trust in their government...

Not every government can claim that they are 'whiter than white'. lol

lina said...

@Jasmine Shanea,
I was in the queue in Malaysia for that Hello Kitty!

In Malaysia, even a whiff of a plan strike would result in massive police roadblocks everywhere!

C K said...

@lina,
I didn't realise that there were queues in M'sia for Hello Kitty as well. I'm sure those softtoys are now languishing in your storeroom now... :P

Well, which will you prefer then? Are you one for the right to express your views (i.e. protest)?

lina said...

@CK,
they are now Raimie's properties.

unfortunately, I am never one to express my views strongly. But, I respect those who fight for what they think is right and voice out injustice.

Eaststopper said...

Thank goodness the tube is still working ... The French are also pretty notorious for going on strike, esp during summer/spring. Last year right about this time, the Paris Metro was down for about 2 weeks due to strikes. Anyways, bon weekend!

C K said...

@lina,
Get Raimie to keep them well. They'll worth a fortune a decade down the road!

Somehow, I think Britons are generally tired of the inconvenience caused by strikes... though, like you, they respect that some workers have to fight for their pay increase.

Do you know that it's illegal for police to go on strike? It was hotly debated sometime back.

C K said...

@eaststopper,
We had to cancel some trips to Paris due to strikes. The last thing I want is to take Eurostar over there to be stuck in their Metro.

For two weeks? If they keep that up, the public will turn against the strikers...

You enjoy your weekend too, my friend!

Dutchie said...

Issues for pay rise should be ironed out behind closed doors b4 they resort to strikes involving the general public. For eg. commuters won't empathised with their cause for the 3rd time. Most of us travel on a seasoned ticket n this costly commodity is paid well in advance on the 1st of each mth. No compensation is given for the days when public transport comes to a standstil. Neither are the days (forcefully)deducted from our annual holidays bec we couldn't make it to our place of work.

When public transport did concede to the strikers' demand, the travellers are faced with a hike in prices bec their salary increments has to come from the public. The same has resulted when the police union won their case for higher pay - the public ended up with exorbitant fines n more penalty payments for the smallest of offenses.

I do think that govt spending in some areas (foreign aid/politics)needs tightening up. Those billions will be well spent to solve the local pay dispute, for eg. It's a great pity that tax payers hv no say in how our tax bucks are managed !

C K said...

@dutchie,
Well said.

However, at the end of the day, it's not how much you earn but how much things your money can buy you. It's really the fiscal policies that is the underlying problem.

But then again, the govt is voted in by the people....

Choklats said...

Dropping by here to say Hello.

Wenbin said...

People vote for the government which they are striking against...

Cuekriz said...

yeah low pay no way... hehehehhe

C K said...

@choklats,
Oh ok, hi! Thanks for stopping by!

@Wenbin,
After awhile, reality sets in and the government that they voted in doesn't seem to look so competent anymore...

@cuekriz,
Oh yeah, people tend to get creative when desperate.. lol