The BBC are reporting this morning on the strikes currently going on or beeing mooted, and headed their segment with the tagline: “Is this heralding a new age of industrial unrest?”
Well maybe, but it isn’t really industrial unrest, is it? With the exception of bus drivers all the workers mentioned were public service workers. Mail workers, council “workers,” bin men… even those working for private companies are paid for and directed by the public sector. And buses aren’t even properly private: there’s no free market in bus routes as they are stipulated by the local “authority.” This is public sector workers indulging in dark mutterings in response to the “cuts” announced by the Conservative leadership (and admitted to by New Labour). They can strike with impunity, or course. They are working in jobs that either help run the state machine (council “workers”) or are relied upon by the taxpayer. They will make a big impact and there is no danger of the company going to the wall over it. I don’t see too many truly industrial workers (i.e. productive private-sector workers) going out on strike, partially because they are less unionised than the public sector but surely at least in part because people are aware that striking could kill the golden goose, and also that however unpleasant the changes their companies are enforcing are -and they are- the aim is generally the survival of the company (and everybody’s job).
The BBC are hardly impartial on this. As a part of the public sector themselves they have an interest in not only hyping the situation but in muddying the waters between the public and private sectors, and occluding the difference between the decreasing few who pay for all this, and the increasing many who get their payslip out of the commun