By Chris Fielding.
As I am sure that everyone in the party believes, the right to strike is an important part of our system of government, but with the majority of strikes seemly affecting the day to day lives of the general public as well as the company in question. It does seem like an alternative is needed which will not affect the public as much as it currently does.
The RMT Union has called numerous strikes in the last month and with many more to come. This can come across to the public, as the RMT is trying to further their own gains, and not caring one iota about their daily lives. Action’s like this is what allows a Conservative Government to pass measures such as the Trade Union Act, to make it harder for unions to strike.
There must be better ways for a union to withdraw its member’s contribution to improving a company’s profits or to improving a service, that would not majorly negatively affect the general public, as any action that negatively affects the public, with no easily visible way how it will improve their lives in the long run, will of course mean that it will give the transport industry, or any industry, an easy way to demonise the whole union movement, and by association, the Labour Party. In short, in the eyes of some members of the public, a strike, in the case of the transport industry, is just something that will mean that they will get home later and be frustrated at the end of the working day, and they are not overly bothered by the reasons for the strike.
In my opinion, the best way to do this would be to have an alternative to the right to strike which would not affect negatively affect the general public, but would only negatively affect the company in question. A potentially extreme example of this would to allow free transport on the networks that would be going out on strike. So, as we are discussing the RMT here, imagine if instead of London Underground trains not running and the public not being able to get to work, and being frustrated with the union. Instead the ticket barriers were open and everyone could travel for free to work. In this case, the only people that would be affected in this case would be the company in question and its profit margin, and not the public, who have nothing to do with the issues in question.
Or another example would be, in the case of a bus driver strike, the bus driver would still come into work and be paid their usual wages by the company, but all members of the general public on that day would not pay for their travel, so the company would not be making any money from fares on that particular day.
An action like this should hopefully not damage the public perception of unions and the Labour Party. Of course, before such an action is carried out, the union would need to let the public know that it is them and not the transport company that is allowing transport to be free for the day, otherwise this would undo the whole idea of the action. I also believe that it would make the period of industrial action longer, there would not be just one strike, but the union could call its members to take action for maybe a week or more, as the union would not be paying strike pay. The company in question would need to carry on paying their workers their normal salaries for the hours worked, but the company would not receive any profit during the days of action.
Of course, the example that I have given may not be practical in all cases, but I do believe that an alternative is needed to the right to strike that will only affect the company in question, and its finance’s and not the general public, of course this would only work in certain industries and in certain situations.
Otherwise, continuous strikes involving industries which directly affect the public will only serve to further demonise the union movement and by association the Labour Party, this in my opinion will only make it easier for the current government to put through any anti-strike law that they want, as long as they are able to reassure the public that it will improve their daily commute. As shown in the quote from the once and future king Boris Johnson, “…we have seen strikes triggered by a tiny minority that have caused far worse disruption and have caused inconvenience and misery for millions.”