Today we heard that the strike of BA cabin staff was taking  place and then we heard that rail staff are discussing strke action too.

Of course no one likes strikes, the general public are inconvenienced, the strikers lose money and the bosses lose money, but what other weapon do working people have if they are not listened too other than to withdraw their labour?

On the blogs I read which are written by NHS doctors and nurses, they are at their wits ends about how to get their views listened to by “the management”. They are not complaining about their pay, but about the conditions they have to work under which prevent them from giving the service they want to give to their patients. They, of course, cannot take strike action.

A book I read recently, was written by a “blogger” Roy Mayall,  titled “Dear Granny Smith”. He is a postman who has worked as a postman for 30 years and gives the postman’s views on their recent strike and it made me wonder about the industries about which I have no “insider” knowledge. As an outsider I know only the information given out by the media and rarely understand what the issues are from the workers point of view. Like many others, I guess, I view the strikes from the effect it may have on me or the country, and think of the strikers as selfish and self seeking, but perhaps they have justifiable cause and have tried every other method of changing things.

Last week, on Question Time, Liam Fox (Shadow minister) said that strikes should be made illegal! I thought this was disgraceful and a throw back to the 17c landed gents and their attitude to their servants and the 19c mill owners and their workers. Of course no one approves of irresponsible strikes where union leaders make impossible claims from their bosses, but it is surely the right of workers in any democratic country to withold their labour, whether the general public agree with them or not.

These disputes rarely have all right on one side and all bad on the other and we should pay equal attention to both sides of the argument. There have been many firms and workers recently who have come to an amicable agreement because the workforce were treated with repect and management listened to them and explained their difficulties, so that both sides arrived at a solution together.

If either side is too set in their ways to temper their views then no one wins.

I think problems arise when the workforce refuse to try any form of change and management insist on changing everything for the sake of it. I have spoken to many craftsmen, professionals and other workers with years of experience who feel very frustrated when someone, with little or no practical experience, and guided only by “market forces” tell them to make changes at the expense of the smooth running and service of their industry and is possibly dangerous too.

Have we become too obsessed with the price of everything and losing sight of the values.  An unhappy, disillusioned workforce is not an efficient workforce. I read recently that, despite the increased relative wealth in recent years, we are less happy than we used to be. There are many occupations, which to the outsider seem mundane, but those work in them took a pride in and enjoyed their work.

When I was nursing in hospital I knew many ward maids and orderlies, who in those days had set wards, who took a great pride in keeping the ward clean and tidy. They also enjoyed being part of the ward family,  so when their services were privatised in the 80s (in the quest for economies), they lost their wards and became part of the “cleaning team” so no one had direct responsibility for anything and standards slipped so that now we have to have “deep cleaning” teams at great expense and constant complaints about cleanliness.

We are constantly being told that the obscene salaries paid to chief executives are necessary because they are the best people available, but if they cannot manage a workforce without bullying and threats, then they are obviously not the best people but just those who have the right contacts when the cream is handed out. When they make these claims on the great savings they have made do they take into account the poorer service we are getting and how many jobs are needed to pay their over generous pay packages?

Thanks to “modernisation” we no longer have two postal deliveries a day, just one which does not arrive at breakfast time as the first post used to. We have wards, that are not cleaned properly, staffed mainly by untrained “carers” managed by highly paid bureaucrats who have either never worked with patients or have forgotten what they did know.

We have lost many of the services we were used to when I was younger, free deliveries from the shops, porters to help with luggage and directions, guards on trains, conductors on buses, postmen who had their own rounds and knew many of their customers etc. and this has dehumanised and isolated many of us.

I wonder what other people think we have lost thanks to “Efficiency” and “market forces”

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