Monday, February 02, 2009


Gordon Brown showed the true colours of the mainstream Labour Party when he called the present rash of wildcat strikes that are sweeping the country (if a rash can sweep), in a fine and surprising show of solidarity with workers in one place who are seeing a lot of jobs go to Italian workers, "indefensible" . The strikes are only wildcat strikes because the pin-up girl of the New Labour movement Margaret Thatcher made it illegal for unions to go out without formal ballots and all that other boss-centred palaver. Labour should have repealed all of her anti-union legislation a long time ago. But of course it never will.

The rightness of the cause behind the strikes is debatable, as most things are. Technically speaking, much as it grieves me to say it, nobody on the boss side seems to have broken the law in putting a job out to tender and granting the resulting contract to an Italian firm who have brought in Italian labour to do the work. Not that following the letter of the law and doing the right, moral thing are necessarily the same.

But let's look at that. I heard an English striking worker on the radio the other day being questioned by an overpaid BBC presenter about whether British workers were pricing themselves out of employment by routinely expecting £1000 a month more than their Italian counterparts. (It's always been the case when we get into economic difficulty: accept gruel, you greedy fuck, or you'll get nothing. Whereas with the guys who caused the recession the song is: if we don't pay them massive bonuses, their vast talent will be lost to the country.) I would turn that around somewhat and ask why, for one, Italian workers are getting paid so badly, and why business and government in this country support/ allow a tendering process which claims it's driven by best value or whatever term they'll put on it when to get that all they do is squeeze labour like the bedraggled remnants of a toothpaste tube and expect the workers to like it.

1 comment:

Ralph Murre said...

Nice piece of writing (once one decodes the construction of that first sentence) and pretty much as true of the situation over here in the colonies as of that in the Motherland. Labor has been weakened to the point of near-total insignificance, and it feels to me that as much of that weakening has been at the hands of people that gained office with the backing of labor as it has been wrought by their proclaimed enemies. Much strength has been lost, of course, by the willingness, or need, of workers to buy cheap goods, no matter where they were produced, nor at what cost in terms of blood, sweat and poverty. In this sense, I am as guilty as most. We can probably do no better than to remember the words of Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."