80 year UK strike low last year

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Red Marriott's picture
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May 23 2011 23:48
80 year UK strike low last year
Quote:
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/money/article-23951219-job-jitters-keep-british-workers-from-going-on-strike.do

Job jitters keep British workers from going on strike

Russell Lynch
18 May 2011

Strikes hit an 80-year low in the year to March, as worried workers shunned industrial militancy and swallowed pay deals well behind inflation, figures showed today.

The 145,000 days lost to disputes is the joint lowest since the Office for National Statistics' records began in 1931 - but coincide with plans from public sector unions to launch a wave of strikes against coalition spending cuts. [...]

Anyone have reasons to think this is likely to change much in the near future? A few token one day public sector strikes may alter yearly figures a bit but not change much else.

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May 24 2011 02:20

i read an interesting article in the economist at the start of the recession that sought to reassure investors that despite the hype about summers of discontent, strike days had only slightly turned upwards from an all-time low. the chart was quite a picture. of course against this, i think the AFed pamphlet on work notes a corresponding rise in absenteeism and losses to employee theft, marking an atomisation of resistance rather than an evaporation...

raw
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May 24 2011 12:00
Joseph Kay wrote:
i read an interesting article in the economist at the start of the recession that sought to reassure investors that despite the hype about summers of discontent, strike days had only slightly turned upwards from an all-time low. the chart was quite a picture. of course against this, i think the AFed pamphlet on work notes a corresponding rise in absenteeism and losses to employee theft, marking an atomisation of resistance rather than an evaporation...

Statistics don't really show much especially when June 30 and a possibly bigger strike at the end of September will add 2 million+ lost of days.

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Joseph Kay
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May 24 2011 12:33

well statistics show broad trends, and strike days are a pretty good indicator of the general level of class conflict.

bootsy
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May 24 2011 22:24

According to government stats 2010 was the lowest year for strike activity since 1935 so there is a similar situation here in NZ. We discuss the validity of those stats in an article which will be published soon.

I don't see the situation changing much any time soon. Collectivising problems amongst precarious, private sector workers is really damn difficult. Especially when unemployment is so high I think generally precarious workers will be more concerned about whether they can end up getting a reference out of their shitty job rather than pushing for longer breaks, better pay etc.

Its hard to tell but I suspect that a spark is more likely to come from those previously casual workers who are now unable to find work, or those used to fairly stable fulltime work who are now only able to get casual part-time work. There is a hell of a lot of these people about at the moment:

Quote:
Statistics New Zealand reported that the number of jobless looking for part-time work increased from 50,900 to 57,000 in the year to March.
http://nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.php?c_id=3&objectid=10727283

The flipside to reducing much of the workforce to such precarity is that there is a large degree of fluidity between the unemployed and the partially-employed so maybe a swell of anger amongst the former could have a strong influence upon the latter. We can live in hope but honestly the situation does look very dismal.

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May 25 2011 00:36
raw wrote:
Statistics don't really show much especially when June 30 and a possibly bigger strike at the end of September will add 2 million+ lost of days.
Joseph Kay wrote:
well statistics show broad trends, and strike days are a pretty good indicator of the general level of class conflict.

The key is wildcat action and preferably a wildcat movement with self organised communist tendencies (like Italy in the 1960s). I read some where that wildcat action in Britain was at its peak in the 1950s-1960s...whats happened since?

Samotnaf
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May 25 2011 00:57
Quote:
I read some where that wildcat action in Britain was at its peak in the 1950s-1960s...whats happened since?

1960s Britain: over 90% of strikes were wildcat (often involving shop stewards, but not made official because they were usually settled in the strikers' favour very quickly and the Union bureaucracy tended to take their time making strikes official; sometimes they were made official after they were over and strike pay was given retroactively).
What's happenend since? Unemployment, a conscious weapon of the ruling class: the 40s, 50s and 60s were a time of virtual full employment.

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May 25 2011 16:25

Yeah, this doesn't surprise me. Any slightly increasing militancy in the private sector was killed by the mass layoffs when the crisis started.

In the public sector, the whole crisis propaganda and threat of upcoming job losses meant that pretty much no one was prepared to take strike action over a sub inflationary pay increases, or pay freezes.

And last year the widespread job cuts and pension cuts for public sector workers hadn't kicked in properly - these are starting now. So I think we will see a big spike in the number of strike days lost this year. Although these will mostly be one-day strikes by big groups of workers, like June 30.

So I don't think last year is indicative of any trend exactly, I just think a lot of things were in limbo.

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May 25 2011 17:23

JK, I'd be really interested to read that article if you can dig it up.

Also worth noting (I read an article on this as well) that as strike days go down, long-term sick days go up. The article (quite liberal/social democratic-y) argued that the reason for this was that strikes fixed problems at work. No strikes=more stress and more time off.

In any case, it's not the collective, open resistance of a strike, but individual withdrawals of labour do still occur, no doubt.

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May 25 2011 17:53

Yeah, chilli the excellent AF article on work and the free society goes into how although today the number of strike days lost is much less than in the late 70s, the number of days lost to stress now surpasses them!

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May 25 2011 18:19
Chilli Sauce wrote:
JK, I'd be really interested to read that article if you can dig it up.

i had a quick look and can't find it, but their whole labour unions tag is a goldmine of how the enemy thinks, with gems like this for those who love a bit of the machiavellian bourgeoisie.

baboon
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May 26 2011 11:26

I think that the machivellianism of the ruling class plays a big role in this.

I agree that days lost in strikes in a good indication of the level of class struggle. I agree that there must be a rise in sick days off due to stress and other class-related effects, though I don't agree that these somehow "compensate" for striking in that they are individual expressions that tend to further atomise workers.

I agree with the points above about the wildcat nature of many strikes up to the 80s and, being involved in some, remember very clearly the complete lack of fear. Today fear is the major factor from the blackmail of unemployment: "if you don't like it, you know what you can do" was a refrain from management in all the major industries from the mid-80s (no accident it was after the decisive defeat of the miners' strike). Today the economic crisis is much more serious and the bourgeoisie, which "becomes more intelligent in times of crisis", has the tools to reinforce this fear amongst the working class. As some of the references above show, this doesn't at all stop the bourgeoisie talking up strikes or the threat of strikes. In fact, that becomes part of the strategy.

I like the example above of the strategy of the French ruling class under Sarkozy. It is intelligent. In my opinion the role of the trade unions in the defence of democracy shouldn't be underestimated. As, last year, strikers in France went from one, two to three millions, the bosses of the CGT went to the French government with a small but telling example of one non-unionised workplace where 44 of the 49 workers had walked out and joined the strikes, and asked: is this what you want? The CGT launched their blockade of the oil refineries campaigns next which effectively strangled the dynamic of the struggle. Fear and union sabotage.

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May 26 2011 19:55
Quote:
I agree that there must be a rise in sick days off due to stress and other class-related effects, though I don't agree that these somehow "compensate" for striking in that they are individual expressions that tend to further atomise workers.

Who said that?!?!?!?! confused

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May 26 2011 20:33

I've had two letters from the NASUWT in the last few weeks to argue against strikes and explain why they're not ballotting.

I am not even a member, I haven't ever paid dues because I've been unemployed since qualification, I'm assuming that helps them towards having a bigger membership than the NUT smile

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May 26 2011 20:38

I'd be curious to see them, any highlights?

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May 26 2011 21:45
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I'd be curious to see them, any highlights?

I can scan them tomorrow.

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May 27 2011 07:02

cool

baboon
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May 27 2011 12:07

I said it Chilli. I wasn't arguing against anyone in particular - just putting forward my position that going sick is not an effective form of class struggle.

As far as the UK goes, here the British bourgeoisie have played an intelligent game. "Buying off" would be the wrong term and wouldn't explain the situation, but wages in many of the major industries, as far as I can see, have been maintained, if not risen in real terms. Engineering for example has seen wage rises keeping up with inflation. The power supply industry is taking on workers and wages and conditions have been maintained. The same for gas and in water, where job losses have been made, premium rates for overtime, double-time, time and half, call-out pay, sickness pay, etc, have all been maintained, as in other major industries. There's a general attack on pensions in all industries and though wages have been maintained in these industries workers here will have someone in their immediate family unemployed or in financial trouble whom they have to help out.
A lot of these wage deals have flexibility clauses in them "negotiated" by the unions but, from what I saw of it, workers have a way of absorbing these punches and even turning them to their advantage.
However, it doesn't matter how intelligent the bourgeoisie is in phasing in its attacks (and the British and French bourgeoisies are) and the union's work in keeping the working class divided, then the deepening of the crisis will demand more frontal attacks against the whole class and it's here that the development of class struggle lies.

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May 27 2011 16:27
baboon wrote:
However, it doesn't matter how intelligent the bourgeoisie is in phasing in its attacks (and the British and French bourgeoisies are) and the union's work in keeping the working class divided, then the deepening of the crisis will demand more frontal attacks against the whole class and it's here that the development of class struggle lies.

The problem is people have been saying this since 2007 and the evidence above shows it's not happening so far. How deep is deep?

Zeitgeist? Revived wartime state propaganda as style icon;

Quote:
This is a reproduction of the original Keep Calm and Carry On poster produced by the Ministry of Information 1939. http://www.keepcalmandcarryon.com/

Parodies of the poster, with similar type but changing the phrase or the logo (for example, an upside-down crown with "Now Panic and Freak Out"), have also been sold.[8] The poster's popularity has been attributed to a "nostalgia for a certain British character, an outlook" according to Bagehot, a reporter for The Economist, that it "taps directly into the country's mythic image of itself: unshowily brave and just a little stiff, brewing tea as the bombs fall."[9] Its message has also been felt relevant to the late-2000s recession and has been adopted as an unofficial motto by British nurses, the poster appearing in staff rooms on hospital wards with increasing frequency throughout the 2000s.[6] Merchandise with the image has been ordered in bulk by American financial firms, advertising agencies, and by Germans.[8]

It has appeared on the walls of places as diverse as the prime minister's strategy unit at 10 Downing Street, the Lord Chamberlain's office at Buckingham Palace and the United States embassy in Belgium. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Calm_and_Carry_On

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May 28 2011 09:21

I shit you not, our managers have mock-up of this that says 'plan like mad and do less in class'.
And they actually use it, in meetings, with adults.

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May 28 2011 12:45

You could replace them with "Plan less and go mad in class".

baboon
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May 29 2011 11:23

I don't know how deep is deep Red and I don't think that there's a mechanical tripping point. There's no doubt that the class struggle is lagging behind the attacks on the class and that "strike days lost" show the low levels of class struggle in the European heartlands - though that's not the case in China, Bangla-Desh and elsewhere.
I tried to show some elements above of how the British bourgeoisie was, to a certain extent, laying off the closely state-controlled "private sector" and concentrating its attacks on the public sector with the reinforcement of a "public/private" division in the working class that's been very succesful for the ruling class in France.
The development of the class struggle is a persective that concerns us all but I don't think that we should be impatient. The explosion of social unrest throughout Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc., whatever the more or less rapid recuperations, the massive demonstrations in Portugal in March and now events in Spain show us that there's no Royal, incremental road to proletarian revolution but that the working class is still in there fighting and, whatever the dangers in these social movements, there can be a proletarian perspective coming out of them.

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May 30 2011 16:32
jef costello wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I'd be curious to see them, any highlights?

I can scan them tomorrow.

Not to be a cheeky bastard, but any luck comrade?

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May 30 2011 18:36

http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/220/nasuwt11.jpg/
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/803/nasuwt12.jpg/
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/62/nasuwt21.jpg/
http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/694/nasuwt22.jpg/

For some reason they wouldn't show up as images so I've put them in url tags. Not the best scans, but it's all bollocks anyway.

My favourite part

Quote:
In addition to our strategy of negotiation and legal action, there are some things all members can do.
1. Do nothing.
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May 30 2011 19:35

That is shocking.

The funny thing is that they openly acknowledge just how ready to strike their members are. But...."Do nothing...write your MP".

It's good, tho, thanks again. I'm going to pass them off to the NUT rep at my school so him and I can kind of use to craft our arguments when we speak to teachers about not crossing picket lines.

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May 30 2011 21:57

Chilli sauce - why are you shocked? Is this something so 'out there' something we've never seen before from a union?

You then go on to say that your reaction to this 'shocking' thing from the unions is.....to go to the union rep....eh!??

Surely it would be better to present this directly to your colleagues many of whom, no doubt, would have illusions in the unions being on 'their side'?

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May 30 2011 22:31

Well that seemed unnecessary, but way to read your own assumptions into a offhand post. Okay, let me try this again:

enlightened Chilli Sauce wrote:
That is shocking. I mean we all know that unions are structurally flawed, serve as relief valves for capital, and divide the working class. But even then, it is shocking to see it it written so plainly and openly.

The funny thing is that they openly acknowledge just how ready to strike their members are. But...."Do nothing...write your MP".

It's good, tho, thanks again. I'm going to pass them off to the NUT rep at my school so him and I can show them to our colleagues when we speak to teachers about not crossing picket lines. While--as acknowledge previously--unions are irreconcilably flawed, many times union reps take up that position because they see value in working standing up and sticking
together. Hence why we're going to be speaking to non-union teachers, teachers from non-striking unions, and support/manual/agency staff about why they shouldn't cross the picket line that we're setting up at my school on the day.

On second thought, however, I'm going not going to do that at all. Instead, I'm going to join a holier-than-thou left communist group and snipe from the sidelines because I'd rather disregard the the opportunity to engage in practical work with another militant at work just because they happen to be a union rep.

Better?

raw
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May 31 2011 15:52

interesting article from counter-fire
http://www.counterfire.org/index.php/articles/163-resisting-austerity/12393-trade-union-membership-and-the-working-class-today

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May 31 2011 20:00


Quote:
On second thought, however, I'm going not going to do that at all. Instead, I'm going to join a holier-than-thou left communist group and snipe from the sidelines because I'd rather disregard the the opportunity to engage in practical work with another militant at work just because they happen to be a union rep.

Perhaps if you'd been paying closer attention to what I said at your meeting a couple of saturdays ago, you wouldn't have come out with this sarcastic rubbish?

I made the point, along with several others - though no one from SOLFED - that the union is irredeemably going to act against the interests of the workers. But also that individuals join unions because they think they going to be helping other workers. The fact theat they're so convinced of this (which, of itself isn't wrong in any way) but that they only see this as meaning 'to act through the union' often leaves them in contradictory positions.

Not crossing a picket line is a good thing to promote amongst fellow staff - as is showing them some proof of how th eunion is acting against them. On the other hand, saying those things , whilst acting in conjunction with the union rep only serves to give out mixed messages. It really doesn't go any way towards engendering a sense of empowerment amongst the staff that they could act without the 'blessing' of the union.

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May 31 2011 21:37

Well Miles, I don't really know what to tell you. The meeting you came to wasn't about discussing politics (or why and how the unions are flawed). Everyone in SF--and I would imagine most people in that room--have a structural critique of the unions that informs our actions. We don't need to be lectured and we don't need to bring it up every time we discuss practical activity.

Also, you don't know my personal situation. I'm doing serious organising in my department and there's two unions members out of 14 members of staff. Everything we've done is "without the 'blessing' of the union". In fact, I'm pretty sure I talked about that at the meeting. My politics and SF's politics come through in how we act, not because we're constantly parroting the right line.

Now, regarding June 30th: It's already through the fucking unions. You should probably also note that part of the way I'm going to begin those conversations with this leaflet which includes:

Quote:
But my union’s not on strike. Or what if I’m not in a union?
That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we all stick together and
stand up for ourselves and one another. If management know we’ll
refuse to cross each others’ picket lines, they’ll be less likely to attack
any worker or group of workers—regardless of what union we belong
to or if we don’t belong to a union at all.

That said, it's a lot fucking easier to effectively speak to co-workers when there's more than one of you. Considering I'm non-teaching staff and the other dedicated radical at my school is also non-teaching staff--and considering that the vast majority of the staff at my school have no experience striking--I need a person whom teachers in my school trust. That leaves me with, for better or worse, the NUT rep.

People are not fucking pre-formed radicals that have well-developed critiques of the trade unions. That education comes through struggle and I'd rather, first and foremost, get someone on a picket line first and then have those conversations with them. If that means, in the short term, working with the union rep, that's the world we live in. It's not like I'm not having those conversations (presenting critiques of the TUs) with my co-workers, it just happens that at the moment my priority is, ya know, making sure June 30th is successful as possible.