If you oppose strikes; you are a mean-spirited idiot, with schadenfreude instead of a backbone: an objective view of November 30th 2011

About six months ago I made a banner and printed leaflets in support of the staff at my then University, striking over pensions; our slogan was “Support Staff; Be a Skive not a Scab”; our basic message essentially went along the lines of ‘oh go on, you think classes is boring anyway, go sit in a park and read or go to the pub or something instead, just today when you skiving might help’. As you could probably imagine we got mixed reactions; some were disgusted, telling us that referring to those who broke a strike as a ‘Scab’ was intimidating and tout amount to a screaming abuse at them in the street; some were right behind us, militantly pledging to stand with University staff on the picket lines. My favourite reaction however, was from those had no idea there was even a dispute, who then said “yeah, okay” and skived.  They were the best because without any context as to the nature of the dispute, they took the view that they weren’t going to proactively make someone’s life harder, and as we were asking people to literally do nothing and go home, they complied and went to a café, or a pub or read a book or some such to deal with the minor inconvenience the strike had provided them with.

On further reflection I shouldn’t have been grateful that people chose not to actively undermine someone’s attempt to maintain if not improve their standard of living in the same way you shouldn’t be grateful that no one pushes the food off your table at a restaurant, both these things should be standard etiquette. People’s attitudes to strikes and strikers generally let me know if I’m going to like them or not; if you take the attitude that, for their many faults Unions provide a democratic voice in-between elections for people who generally don’t get one and find it hard conceive of someone who flippantly strikes, somewhat like Len McCluskey, then I’m sure we’ll get along fine, if you’re part of the grey middle of the road section of society that listens to Coldplay whilst re-reading your favourite chapter of  One Day and you like to think you’re thoughtful and balanced and don’t know if you support strikes because some other people don’t, then I’m sure you’re  nice person deep down but there’s probably someone with an ironic beret you’d find more interesting to talk to. If however you’re the kind of mean spirited cretin who thinks people should be grateful to be in work and that Jeremy Clarkson is a witty man who works harder than a nurse or dustman, then I’m not sorry that we won’t get on, you’ve gone beyond a political disagreement you’re just a bellend.

I understand if you fall into the Clarkson Fan club, you’ll probably view my last sentence as evidence of a lack of intellectual reasoning behind my support of strikes, but if you seriously see the world in terms of entitled, lazy, workers making life hard for the kind, patient, generous employers, then you are objectively a bellend. If you’re not part of the 1% who have directly benefited from the collapse of the economy and subsequent disastrous few years[1], but think it’s appropriate to participate in, or support people who do take part in strike breaking activity, as Michel Gove told people to do throughout last week,  then you are provably a terrible person, on top of gullible; you are complicit making sure people’s livelihoods are hampered despite their efforts to improve it. For one you’re almost certainly a hypocrite; complaining when public sector workers are paid a reasonable amount is logically interdependent  with the ludicrous notion that concerns about equality in society amount merely to the damaging politics of envy, as who pays those public sector pensions aye? taxpayers, which apparently public sector workers aren’t, and we need to not pay those people so rich people can afford more things. This attitude that uppity public sector workers are ruining it for everyone has certainly been on display in from many people, encouraged the government by constantly referring to the informal, non-negotiable offer they had placed in front of the unions as ‘generous’  and ‘better than anywhere in the private sector’; in much the same tone an abusive mother would tell her younger child;

“Oh Timmy, Isn’t Susan awfully greedy? Here I am offering her a turd sandwich, and she thinks that’s not very nice, I mean all you got was a urine soaked rag to suck on for nourishment doesn’t that make you angry with her Timmy”    

The problem here is that as someone who opposes this strike you (as Timmy) have responded;

“I certainly am angry with Susan mummy, that bitch doesn’t know a good thing when she sees one, it makes me physically sick to see Susan reject a gold plated turd sandwich like that, I should be so lucky – buy the way I should thank you for the lovely rag, I understand things have been tough since we gave all our food to the financial services director next door so he wouldn’t burn our house down so thanks for what you could spare.”

The various working class and low earners who have stood up in various public meetings and begrudged dustmen, civil servants and council workers going on strike, because they have it worse in the private sector, has been a depressing cavalcade of sado-masochistic Stockholm syndrome. It’s really not public sector worker’s fault that you couldn’t get it together and fight your boss for better working conditions, pay and pensions – it sucks that you didn’t get that opportunity, but it’s not their fault. it’s your boss’s for forcing them on you and yours for allowing that to happen; making nurses work until their nearly 70 won’t make you feel better about your crap pension, so stop crying to mummy and recognise that sometimes we need to take responsibility for our own position in life. This is something which public sector workers are trying to do, and far from hurting you, attempting to hold a at least one major employer to a higher standard means that the market is tilted more favourably to better working conditions which – if you made enough of an effort – would make your potential attempt at industrial negotiations easier.

A militant, itching for a fight

There are a lot of reasons people have opposed this strike on what they think are economic grounds, those don’t make them bellends it just makes them wrong and unable to understand that a government – particularly a member of the G8 – doesn’t operate like a family or a business, it acts like a government, that can take large loans out from itself and choose how long it can pay back said loan. Or that even by conservative estimates public sector pensions are viable for the forseable future as page 66 of this report  will demonstrate. Things like that can be argued and debated over, we can have those arguments preferably in a scenario where workers have some other sanction than withdrawing their labour, however whilst that is the only sanction they do have, and people’s livelihoods as well as the potential for staying out of poverty in old age is on the line; undermining and demonizing using it  isn’t part of a debate; it’s just you being a bellend.


[1] in which case, my explanations for why you’re objectively a bellend is for another day entirely

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