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From the carthorse’s mouth

Why don’t [union leaders] be selective and call out only those members who can cause damage to the government? There are places in the public sector that could go on strike for years and it would make little difference.”

– Letter in the New Statesman, 12 December 2011

Assuming the unions were to agree with that—which I suspect they dare not, and is indeed one strategic reason why one-day strikes are preferred—in what places in the public sector would staff striking for a significant period damage the government more than the unions? Maybe there are some. But it is hard to think of any.

9 comments to From the carthorse’s mouth

  • Indeed. I would rather like them to all go out on strike, and just stay there forever, and when the world keeps turning just fine without them perhaps… just perhaps… more people might start to imagine a quite functional and agreeable world that does not revolve around obeisance to the regulatory state.

  • Ian

    If no-one would notice them going on strike, “for years,” then perhaps they should be made redundant instead.

  • PeterT

    At the moment it seems to me that the private sector is bearing the brunt of the “austerity”. Whilst the public sector might not be hiring and a pay freeze is in place, you have probably got a pretty safe job if you’ve been around for a few years and are unionised.

    In this environment I do not think that striking union members would get much sympathy from the non-public sector employed public.

    As has been much remarked upon here, there is a whole class of voters that are uncatered for by the mainstream party. Maybe they are ‘working class conservatives’. They are not ideological, but generally work in the private sector, perhaps self-employed. The UK’s version of a Herman Cain voter. I doubt very much that they would support public sector workers on strike. I also doubt that they would enthusiastically support the government.

  • Paul Marks

    Good to know that someone is examing the “New Statesman” – this means I do not have to.

    I know of the “know the enemy” arguments – but if someone else is doing the job……

    As for the specfic letter.

    It was weird – like so much of the left’s output.

    Strikes that “go on for years”?

    And the government does not sack the strikers and hire other people?

    And who funds the strike pay?

  • Paul Marks

    On second thoughts (I am tired).

    I see Guy’s point.

    If people could go on strike for years (and no one really notice) it means that they should be employed in the first place.

    They are (by their own admission) doing nothing useful – and their posts should be abolished.

  • Peter

    Strikes which would most damage the government would include those which impact on revenue collection – treasury, Inland Revenue, Council tax collection.

    I imagine such strikes would see huge public support

  • And yet, Peter, somehow they never seem to go on strikes…

  • bobby b

    Here in my home state (in the USA), our state government was shut down for a few weeks due to a budget impasse at the Legislature. Only “essential services” were kept open – i.e., police, firefighters, medical facilities, and travel agents employed to arrange vacation travel for state employees.

    After about two weeks, the shutdown began to seriously affect the state’s economy. Construction progress was halted, bars and restaurants began losing money, grocers were running out of foods, products were no longer being shipped from manufacturers to buyers . . . there were many examples.

    Our local liberal press trumpeted this news. The State was crucial to our economy! Public employees performed vital, needed functions every day, and we cannot live without them! Pay them all more!

    A closer examination was infuriating.

    The economy was shutting down only because the government had so insinuated itself into everything with its often-pointless system of permissions.

    Drivers couldn’t renew licenses. Companies couldn’t license vehicles. Gas stations couldn’t buy gasoline because transfer forms were being held up. Bars couldn’t buy the funny little state tax stamps they were required to place on liquor bottles and cigarettes. Farms couldn’t get their meat or produce inspected and so couldn’t sell them.

    Builders couldn’t procure building permits for their construction projects, nor could they receive Certificates of Occupancy allowing anyone to use their new projects when complete. Plumbers and electricians couldn’t get inspections done, and so builders couldn’t continue work by enclosing uninspected portions. Food stamps were, of course, being issued, but stores couldn’t process them for reimbursement.

    Professional licenses were not being renewed. Doctors could not submit required reports to the state and so could not get many tests performed. Business licenses could not be checked. Liens could not be filed with the Secretary of State. Newly hired employees could not go to work because required state record checks weren’t being done.

    The list goes on. In every case, the state shutdown involved no actual productive activity in and of itself. And yet, they shut us all down.

    How? Because we now need permission from the state to do just about everything, and when they shut down the permission offices, we’re all screwed.

    Our liberal press tells us we should never again shut down our state offices – we should simply dig deeper and give them the money they want.

    I have a better idea.

  • guy herbert

    Which is interesting in itself, I think. We are inclined to think the state is the same everywhere, but it isn’t. The US has in economic quantity significantly less state than the UK, but what there is is often more burdensome, if less directly costly. It’s more the permit raj, and the legal system is often much harsher to those who don’t comply with the paperwork.