The UK is currently experiencing a whole lot of strikes. There’s at least one a day from now to Christmas. They include unprecedented planned walkouts by nurses, paramedics, ambulance services, railway workers, post handlers, people who work in the education sector, airline workers and dock workers amongst others.
Most seem to be driven by pay offers that are substantially below inflation, which poses real problems when many people are already in the midst of a cost of living crisis. There’s also increasingly arduous and impossible working conditions in some roles, often exacerbated by there being far too many unfilled vacancies for a safe and efficient service to be offered.
What’s nice to see is that despite the best attempts of the Government, and some parts of the media, to blame the strikers for being greedy, lazy or whatever - the most high-profile unhinged attack perhaps being the chairman of the Conservatives claiming that the people going on strike are supporting Putin - recent surveys suggest that a higher proportion of the public are generally on the side of the strikers rather than the management or government.
Most of the strikes I’ve heard about are in the public sector, but more private interests are not wholly exempt. Perhaps the most dystopian one I’ve read about so far is that employees of the homelessness charity Shelter are contemplating having to go on strike on the basis that their current pay offer may result in they themselves ending up homeless, being unable to afford their own living accommodation.
One common riposte of the government is that “we can’t possibly pay essential civil servants cost of living increases because it’ll make inflation go even higher”. One thing I’ve never understood in these sorts of arguments is why, if they really believe that to be true, they continuously hold back the pay of public servants but yet never seem to legislate for - or even advise - private businesses to do the same.
Well, I guess I do understand it; it would probably cause an outcry amongst a certain amount of the public, and be absolute anathema to especially the Truss contingent of the Conservative party. But in theory this to me would be a more consistent form of same idea, even if I would most likely be opposed to it in the same way that I’m opposed to making our public servants even poorer. I’m open to arguments why this isn’t the case though, it’s certainly not my area of expertise.
For what it’s worth, it’s not like the government doesn’t already exert control over the rates of pay private businesses can offer. Two contemporary examples include minimum wage legislation, and the cap on banker’s bonuses.