Like pantomime villains, militant trade union leaders appear to revel in the indignation they induce from the public. The determination to cause as much disruption as possible over Christmas is scarcely disguised. A perverse delight is taken by the unions where strike action on the most unreasonable of pretexts, by the smallest number of their members, can cause widespread misery. The more exasperated the commuters, the happier it makes Mick Cash and Len McCluskey.
Aslef and RMT are causing train strikes – which may spread from the south east to Merseyside.
The Communication Workers Union are calling out Post Office counter staff on December 19, 20 and 24. Cash-handlers who deliver money to branches will walk out on December 22 and 23.
As Alec Shelbrooke MP says:
“Once again hard working people, who the unions are supposed to represent, are going to see their plans to wind down with family and go away on breaks they’ve saved all year for, be wrecked by union Grinches.”
It is not enough just to condemn the strikes as unacceptable – although if the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, were to do so that would be welcome. If the Government regards strikes in essential services as unacceptable, then they should stop accepting them. That means that further trade union reform is required.
Chris Philp, the Conservative MP for Croydon South, proposes the following three measures:
- When a strike occurs on critical public infrastructure, it should be that at least a 50 per cent service is maintained – Canada has similar provisions.
- It should be mandatory to attend mediation at conciliation service, Acas, when a strike has been called or is ongoing.
- There should be a legal requirement for strikes on critical public infrastructure to be reasonable and proportionate.
A leader in the Daily Mail this morning suggests going further:
“Airports, the Post Office and the trains are vital parts of our national infrastructure. Their efficiency will be essential to ensuring Britain is competitive as we reach out to the world post-Brexit. The case for a strike ban in these critical industries grows stronger with every action.”
There is still the absurdity that taxpayers provide huge subsidies to the trade unions. There are those employed in the public sector who in reality are full time union officials. There is free office space provided to unions by the state. Worst of all, there is the widespread practice of the state collecting union subs – the “check off” system – which leads some staff to conclude that union membership is compulsory. Free trade unions should operate independently of the state and should be truly voluntary.
During the Coalition Government the Lib Dems scuppered trade union reforms – even those that would have been very popular with the public, including Lib Dem voters. This year planned changes to the political levy and thresholds for strike ballots were watered down – in return for the trade unions campaigning for Remain in the EU referendum. As Mark Wallace notes there will still be some tighter rules come in next year – but even if they were already in force they would not avert our present woes.
Demands are growing for this unfinished business to be addressed. I see no benefit in the Government delaying. Getting on with this unfinished business would be morally right and a boost to economic confidence. It would also be hugely popular – not least with millions of trade unionists. Of course the Labour Party – hugely dependent on trade union funding – would put up a fight. So be it.