Unions! O Noes!

What is a Union? A dreadful vehicle of class warfare and revolution? The ‘enemy within’ holding the country to ransom? Run by ‘Union Barons’ who have millions of drones to do their bidding? I hear that Bob Crow’s cruise ship is actually rowed by a few hundred RMT members, and that they’re getting £50k a year funded by the taxpayer!

Silly right-wing press, a Union is a collection of workers who have gathered together to protect their interests using the power of collective bargaining. Of the employees, by the employees. Their General Secretaries are elected by the members and are accountable to the members (less than can be said of Paul Dacre and Lord Rothermere).

And what are strikes? When Union Barons hold a country by the bollocks and demand more money? When lazy, public-sector workers with gold-plated wages can’t be bothered to work? I hear that the RMT’s strike fund is £50k a year plus overtime!

Silly Grant Shapps and the rest of the old folks home that is the Tory party, a strike is a last-resort, when the bosses are not going to give in to reasonable demands or will not even come to the negotiation table (cough cough Boris Johnson) and a Union is left with no other option to protect their members’ wellbeing and livelihoods. Striking is, according to the UN, the EU and our own laws, a basic human right. Most industrial disputes never even get close to strike action, but instead are a frank negotiation between Union and the employer, ending in a reasonable consensus between both parties.

A strike is never called without a) consulting the members of the Union and b) making sure no possible alternative action exists. So when a unbalanced, unfair and biased press says that the Tube strike is ‘Shameful’, fill their pages with varied biased drivel from the ‘Business community’ and hardly provide a second opinion, it is clear that lies are being repeated and stereotypes are being reinforced, all wrapped up in hypocrisy and preachy self-interest. A strike to protect nearly 7,000 jobs, as well as safety and service on the Tube is a travesty that will ‘hamper the economy of the city’. Because long-term economic patterns are disrupted by a 48 hour travel inconvenience.

The press and the Right need to grow up and develop a serious attitude to Trade Unions, instead of a caricature of the 70s that frankly, isn’t coming back anytime soon. Trade Union general secretaries are not ‘barons’. The last time I checked, barons are not democratically elected.

Trade Unions have fought for and won so many basic human rights: fair wages, fair working hours, safe work environments and so many more. They ensure our labour market works for ordinary people. The countries with the highest Union density, Sweeden, Finland, Denmark and Norway have some of the highest standards of living in the world, as well as some of the most stable economies. Unions are not only good for workers, but good for business, if treated right.

For decades in this country business have treated Unions like the scum of the earth. They have been vilified and smeared in the press, as well as having their power undercut by various laws since Thatcher. If only we took a more cooperative attitude to Unions, treating them as the mouthpiece of the employees instead as an enemy, negotiating instead of repressing, we would have a happier, healthier and more productive workforce, less likely to call in sick or skip work. Isn’t that worth something, or is a quick buck the only thing that an ‘entrepreneur’ needs to think about?