Strikes, Welsh Labour and the BBC.
Watching an attempted national strike on television and twitter has made for an interesting day, and I think by the end of it, I’m more inclined towards supporting the industrial action than I was at daybreak. This though has as much to with the amusement of watching Welsh Labour move further and further away from their partners in London (no bad thing) and the idiots paraded on the BBC as part of their largely tedious coverage, than it has to do with any real issues.
From very early in the day the first proudly posted images of the 8am strikers began to appear in the twitter feeds, as Welsh politicians fell over themselves to illustrate the fact to anyone who might be listening that, yes indeed, they were there braving the elements and standing shoulder to shoulder with the put upon masses. Most parties were represented, apart from the Tories of course, who followed the London party line. Embarrassing tweets praising those working the train lines filtered through from the true blues, which of course were all trumped by David Cameron’s later triumphant ignorance towards the dismay of his millions of employees, discounting their mass walk out as a ‘damp squib’…DC certainly staying in touch with his workforce today eh (one wonders if his advisors have a laminate picture of green hills covered with rainbows glued to his bedroom window so that every morning he wakes to a world in which everything is just fine…). While some Plaid members bemoaned the fact that they were not being allowed to speak at a selection of rallies, it was the enthusiasm showed by Labour ministers on the picket lines that amused most. There stood Rosey Butler, sticking it to the man, while her big boss Miliband in London argued in the opposite direction – plenty of clear red water on display in Wales today.
While Welsh Labour moving further and further away from the policy position of the London Labour party was amusing, and certainly helped in warming to the picketers, the BBC then stepped in to seal the deal. Of all the private sector workers to question on the rights and wrongs and relative sympathies that might be shared with public sector workers, the BBC turned first to a coffee house lackey and then to an estate agent. While not wanting to directly insult anyone in particular, someone who pours coffee for a living, and estate agents, must be the two most replaceable types of employees in the entire world. That they could be essentially compared to teachers and health care professionals verged on the ludicrous. Really, a coffee shop button pressing grunt passing judgement over a teachers right to strike would have probably been reason enough to side with the strikers, but in this case, it was the deal sealing cherry on top. Well, that or a smug bastard of an estate agent smugly finger pointing from within the comfort of his shiny knock-off excuse for a suit – both are equally irksome.
However, something frustrates about today’s strike, and Cameron’s ‘damp squib’ line has some resonance. A one day strike sends a message, for a day, tomorrow everyone will be back where the government wants them to be, and the world will carry on as if the movements yesterday never occurred. If the Unions and all those who feel put upon are serious about their concerns, the action considered must go much further than a single day. Take a look at the bloated salaries of tube drivers in London. Rightly or wrongly, for a employment sector that asks its employees to press three buttons and little else, they do rather well when the pay check drops through the door. That has come from block strikes. Disrupted for one day is a pain, disrupted for two days, three days, that is when people start to pay attention. And while it may be spurious to cite the expenditure of the British government on aircraft carriers that will never even be used, to the tune of a cost that would cover almost exactly the shortfall that is being argued over in relation to pensions, the comparative expenditure is food for thought. So come on the public sector, the country does need you, but they won’t realise it until you buck up your ideas and kick on for a week’s worth of strikes. These one day efforts will achieve nothing – listen to your leaders in Westminster, they are essentially mocking you from their warm halls. Stick it to the man, but do it with some conviction already! They have the money, make them realise that they have no choice but to spend it on you rather than to spend it on boats that will never even see water!