Better to fight for recognition

I write in response to Mr Tapp’s one sided and illogical argument “Is striking outdated now? ”(Observer, July 24).

Mr Tapp’s support of the New Tory Trade Union Bill claims a need for more restrictions on the ‘right to strike’ while also arguing that striking has lost its effectiveness.

The right to strike has always been seen by any trades unionist as a last resort – a necessary evil when negotiations have broken down, after all members suffer themselves in lost wages.

From the late 20th century there has been both a decline in Trade Union membership linked often with a decline of industries where large workplaces made union organisation easier. This decline has been associated with a decline in the share of wages in national income and in the real wages of ordinary people.

This trend has been offset first, by the rise in personal debt to maintain living standards and latterly over the period since the world wide recession a rise in the number of jobs sustained by state benefits to workers.

This rise represents, according to the Conservatives, a significant part of the government deficit crisis and hence their attack on benefits.

These points are significant in the context of the Bexhill and Battle constituency.

This constituency has more than a third of workers (34.2 per cent) on wages below the living wage, a third higher than the UK as a whole (21.7 per cent) and almost double the level of the South East (17.8 per cent).

A significant part of the explanation of this is the fact that the local economy is dominated by tourism, caring and agriculture, industries in which trade union membership has always been low.

Without the power of collective action and the reserve power of striking further deterioration of working conditions and wages are likely unless the economy recovers to a level where workers are in short supply.

Even the IMF recognises this.

I believe it is far better for workers to fight for the recognition of their labour through proper wages than to rely on the state to top them up.

This gives a sense of independence and self worth rather than dependency.

The combined restriction on the right to strike and the cuts to ‘in work benefits’ can only drive more into poverty and the hands of more dangerous ideologies.

Mr Tapp claims that nothing irritates an Englishman more than being delayed on his journey from A to B by a workers strike led by a selfish minority. To my mind this pales into insignificance compared to the action of the selfish minority who almost brought down the whole world economy by gambling recklessly with our money and engaging in the fraudulent manipulation of markets, only to claim that they would quit the country unless paid huge bonuses having engineered massive losses. This is the kind of strike that should be seen not only as archaic but immoral.

Neil Woodroffe

Chichester Close


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