Britain's Perfect Strike

Public-sector union workers show how essential they truly are.

 Most Scragged readers will be aware of the ongoing battle over public-sector unionism, public employee pensions, and exactly how much blood can be extracted from longsuffering taxpayers.  Wisconsin suffered weeks of often-violent strikes and protests prior to Gov. Walker's successful legislation to prevent unions, living on enforced dues, from blackmailing state and local governments into unaffordable wage contracts.

As noteworthy as that was, the situation is far worse in Europe.  The Greeks have been rioting and looting for months now over the very idea that their early retirements and public sinecures might be cut, despite the manifestly obvious fact that the Greek government cannot afford to pay them, in large part because apparently nobody in Greece troubles to pay taxes.

In England they don't have that problem - the rule of law as pertaining to taxpaying still applies.  But they do have the same trouble we do, with outlandishly greedy public employees who have no intention of losing one single iota of the perks they think they deserve.

As unconservative as the current British government is, at least they know how to count: they simply cannot concede to the union's demands, so they won't.  And what happens when a union doesn't get what it wants?  A strike!

Now, each and every human being has an absolute right not to go to work if they choose not to; we don't hold to slavery anymore.  Of course, their employer has (or ought to have) an equally absolute right not to pay employees who don't show up, and to sack them forthwith.  Sad to say, union-funded politicians have largely destroyed the second half of that right if not the first.

Nevertheless, in principle a strike reminds employers just how important their employees are.  When the UAW walks out, the factory line stops, no cars are made, thus no cars can be sold, and the car company makes no money.

All of us want our employers to appreciate our contribution and reward us appropriately; a strike is merely a more dramatic, damaging, collective way of making that perfectly legitimate point.

No unions = No lines, no waiting!

The Big Union Oops

Unfortunately, all this is based on one fundamental assumption: that the workers do, in fact, do something useful and productive.  As inefficient as UAW workers tend to be, they really do produce the occasional car that at least some people freely choose to pay for.

We've long argued that this doesn't extend to the public sector: most public sector jobs do not in fact need doing - by anyone - or, if they do, can be done far more efficiently by others.  The British PCS union has just proved our point in the most spectacular possible fashion, for all to see on the world stage as the London Daily Mail reports:

Passengers who had been warned of lengthy delays at Heathrow due to striking workers today said border controls were 'better than usual'.

As Border Agency bosses were forced to take on regular airport workers to man passport control, delighted passengers said queues had been shorter than normal. [emphasis added]

The lesson was not lost on the Brits:

Noel West, 58, from Brighton, who came into Terminal three from Miami, said: "It proves that we do not need half of these people if you can go through as quickly as I did when there is as strike on.

"It was the fastest I have ever come through passport control. They were really prepared and there were lines showing you where to go depending on what passport holder you are way before there usually is." [emphasis added]

The British public sector unions went out on strike to demonstrate to the British people just how vitally important they are.  They have accomplished this goal: just as we suspected, they are, in fact, entirely useless and a complete waste of money.  There should now be no obstacle to sacking them all forthwith and replacing them with others willing to actually do the job.

If only this story would be reported in American media so we could do the same, starting with the TSA!

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

Is there anyone shocked by this article? Are there ever unions formed in developing countries? No, and there will never be unions in developing countries. Did unions really build the middle class by taking from the factory owners by threatening strikes? The answer is a resounding no. What did happen that built a middle class here in America was capitalism and not unions, they actually cost their workers more in the long run than they could have ever bargained for.

Let's take a look at history. Before the Industrial Revolution, for centuries mankind had been tilling the soil. His main source of power other than himself was animal power, horses and cattle, or slavery. Only the royalty and a few wealthy people were in good shape financially and lived the good life. The wealthy were much like the well connected today in that it wasn't so much what you knew, but who you knew. The vast majority of the people, the serfs, indentured servants, slaves, etc., lived a meager subsistence. They were poorer than church mice.

When the light bulb went off in mankind and they figured out how to design a machine that would do the work of hundreds of men there began the liberation of the serfs. While the inventors became wealthy as a result of their abilities they also, and this is a point lost on the left, they brought up the living standard of men in general. When wealth is created it is spread around, many prosper, see Apple computer for an example of it still occurring today. When these factories were first built it was a brand new beginning. Conditions were harsh by today's standards and to ignore that unions didn't play a part in that would be disingenuous. The pendulum had swung too far but like all pendulums they have now swung the other way too far now. Unions are the main reason that jobs are being lost and exported overseas.

Work rules are crippling our industries and they will continue in decline until we as a people figure it out that while educated, skilled workers are important cogs in the economy, they do not have a financial stake in the product only their time. I know plenty of non-union plants where the owner will not lay off workers when times get slow. He knows that a skilled worker is needed and he also knows that there are families involved. This is when non-union beats out union plants hands down. The only answer that the union has is for the non-nion plant to demand work rules, higher pay (which is already on the same par with the union plants), and strikes in order to get whatever they want. This is a recipe for lost jobs being exported overseas. It's funny that if you asked a union worker if he would start a plant and demand that his labor force be unionized. The look on his face tells it all.

A well run plant in my estimation has a profit sharing plan in place that rewards the workers when times are good. That means that the base pay is not over the pay for a given area but if the opportunity for the plant to make a lot of money everyone is on the same page, they want output which will put dollars in their pockets. A good line of communications is also paramount with a workforce. The workers need to know when times are good and when they are slow. Often workers if given input will come up with better ideas when given the opportunity.

I got a little offtrack from Petrarch's article on how little we miss unions when they don't show up for work. My question is how much would we miss the producers if they didn't show for work? Perhaps the industries of the US should form their own union and decide to shut down for 30-60 days and let's see if they are important. That of course won't happen but it is happening today with companies refusing to hire workers given the environment that obama's socialist agenda has presented to them.

Unions have never made a company more competitive or productive. When the workers finally figure that out they will make more money with a better lifestyle.

December 5, 2011 1:16 PM

"Are there ever unions formed in developing countries?"

Actually yes, in two ways.

First, there are quite a few countries that are heavily unionized which SHOULD BE developing but really aren't. South Africa comes to mind, also some parts of Latin America. The unionization has accomplished exactly what you'd expect: sclerosis, so the economy can't grow, and while those who are lucky enough to have jobs are heavily protected and overpaid, everyone else is comparatively starving.

Japan and South Korea were heavily unionized but were able to move through developing-country status and into first-world status. However, their unions had one very profound difference: contrary to prevailing Western law, it is perfectly legal to have a single-company union. E.g. Toyota Japan is unionized, but not by a UAW union that controls all the employees of all the Japanese car companies. Rather, the Toyota union is just that - the Toyota union, handling only employees of Toyota.

This makes a big difference, because if Toyota were to go bust, automatically THE ENTIRE UNION as well as its leadership instantly dies/gets unemployed. Tends to focus the mind a bit.

In contrast, Western companies and unions are prohibited by law from this sort of arrangement, the result being that union bosses can perfectly well survive the bankruptcy of one of their captive companies. So it's not nearly such a personally big deal.

December 5, 2011 5:12 PM

So what you are telling me is that there are no unions in developing countries like the ones that organize under western civilization laws? What I was referring to was a Bangladesh type, third world country, not a South Africa. Thanks for the input.

December 5, 2011 7:36 PM

Your point may have missed the forest for the trees. It's obvious that inspectors getting out of the way will quicken lines and make traveling faster. The point of the inspectors isn't to make airports more efficient, it's increase security. While the lines may have moved faster, they were also far less secure. Thankfully, Al Qaeda didn't have a traveler going through those lines when the inspectors were gone.

December 6, 2011 8:02 AM

No, there WERE inspectors - ex-military mostly. They just actually cared about doing the job efficiently and well. I'd venture to guess the airport was safer under their watchful eye, though of course we'll never know for sure.

December 6, 2011 5:44 PM
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