Political Promise

Did you hear the one about the fireman who went on strike on bonfire night? He said that his amoral trade union made him do it

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2010 at 7:03 am

The decision to strike on 5 November is shameful but it’s hardly surprising, says Jonathan Ford.

If you don’t already know, come bonfire night next Friday, firemen will have blood on their hands . . . I mean, time on their hands.

That’s because they’re going on strike. On fireworks night! Firemen of London, the clue’s in the title: ‘fire’ and ‘work’ – it’s like the idiot florist who closes for business on Valentine’s Day.

The Fire Brigades Union have peddled all the familiar lines and lies: that they’re the victims; that they’ve got no choice; that they’re being bullied into strike action; and my personal favourite, that they’ve been ‘forced into’ calling the strikes. Don’t you just adore that last one: how the unions justify something that’s so obviously unreasonable by saying that they’re being ‘forced into’ doing it. You’ve got to hand it to them: it takes some bare cheek and brass neck to hold a gun to all our heads, threaten people’s very lives, and then claim that it’s really got nothing to do with you.

But still they insist that they’re being ‘forced into’ it. Does the FBU seriously expect us to believe that contract negotiations went something like this . . .

‘Listen up, union leaders! I know that it’s a bit of an ultimatum but all we ask is that if you call a strike, that you do it on bonfire night. Just because it’s our busiest night of the year, with the most fire-related accidents and fatalities. That’s our final offer – take it or leave it!’

I don’t know what’s more contemptible: that the FBU’s decided to strike on bonfire night, or the lie that they’ve wheeled out to justify it. Nobody’s been ‘forced into’ doing anything. In fact, just the opposite: it’s a cynical political calculation.

But what else would you expect from the trade unions, the amoral organisations that they are?

And I don’t use the word ‘amoral’ lightly. I use it justifiably.

To show you what I’m talking about, let’s shed some light on the dark past of the trade union movement.

Their staunch support for Empire, for example. But what about all the raping and exploitation of the dominions and their working brothers and sisters? Well, they didn’t seem to care much about that. What mattered more to them was that the engine room of Empire was heavily unionised old industry, especially shipbuilding. In other words, while Empire was good for the real wages of their members, unions said to hell with its egregious consequences.

The subjection of women’s another interesting one. You might’ve thought that this would’ve represented something of a cause célèbre for the unions to unite around, to stand up to the establishment, to fight against in the name of decency, equality, and solidarity. Why, it’s the unions’ natural territory!

Alas! No such luck. The unions were actually all for the subjection of women. Why? Because it meant that their members, i.e. male workers, could be paid a family wage. Meantime, they didn’t much mind that millions of women were treated like second-class citizens.

The truth is that the trade unions don’t really care about principles. Next week’s strike’s another reminder of this. That’s because all they care about is money for themselves and their members. They’re selfish and greedy. A lot like the bankers, actually.

  1. Considering that Management have imposed a deadline of 26th November for all Firefighters to sign the new contracts or be sacked, and offered non meaningful consultation before the FBU members voted for action, November the 5th is hardly a surprising choice. The central issue is actually shift patterns and emergency cover within London, not money.
    Your demonisation of Trades Unions is neither original, nor justified. Having worked all my life in a low-wage, non-unionised industry, I can tell you that the benefits for members, and society as a whole, far outstrip the problems caused by free Trades unions.
    Half truths and outright falsehoods without supporting evidence are not an adequate argument. Can only come to the conclusion that you are one of those who wish the Combination Acts still in place.

  2. How can you possibly tell that “the benefits for members, and society as a whole, far outstrip the problems caused” when you have just admitted that you have worked all your life in a non-unionised industry?

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