Unite members at the Grangemouth oil refinery started a 48-hour strike this morning to defend their final salary pension scheme. Unite has published a good Q&A on the dispute.
Predictably, the press is not supporting them. After all, the strike might ’cause chaos at the pumps’. The teachers had the same press last week. While some papers conceded they had a case, they were all more concerned about the harm done to children by losing a day in school. I suspect the last time many of the national papers supported a strike was when some dockers came out in support of Enoch Powell in 1968.
If we took the newspapers’, and the Government’s, arguments to their conclusion, there would never be a strike. Trade unions always produce goods and services that someone else depends on. So they try to blackmail us into not taking industrial action.
It only works one way. Because our side, trade unionists, typically react to what the employers are trying to do, any disruption is our fault. There wouldn’t be a strike at Grangemouth if the very profitable Ineos weren’t trying to increase those profits at the expense of their workers. But we don’t see the Government putting a ban on their actions.
When Gordon Brown came to the last Unite-Amicus Policy Conference, he took time out to listen to the concerns of health workers over last year’s pay deal. He sympathised. But then told us pay restraint was for our own good in the long term. The Government and the press are not concerned about how we live with increasing inflation. It’s all about the macroeconomics so beloved by city financiers.
I support the Grangemouth workers because they are not just grumbling about it, they are doing something. It’s a lesson us health workers would do well to learn.