Call me Russ L

You don’t get me, I’m part of the union

Posted in Modern Living by Russ L on 12 December, 2007

Obviously, trade union activity is not fashionable these days. The main idea in this Thatcher-blighted world seems to be “my job is crap, so I don’t see why anyone else should have the nerve to try and make theirs less so.” We see this primarily in the general attitude to tales of various professions going on strike. Solidarity doesn’t seem popular.

I, myself, don’t believe that sort of thinking is very helpful. Only by standing together is anything ever going to be achieved for anybody. I am a member of PCS, just as I’d be a member of the union in any job I was doing. There’s a widespread feeling that PCS has failed us in its negotiations over various things in the past few years, and a few people at our place are using that as a reason not to support industrial action. I can see the argument there, but I don’t like or agree with it at all. As the union supports me, I will attempt to support it; it’ll take something bloody big to change that.

So, on Thursday the 6th and Friday the 7th we were on strike. The primary reason for this was the pay rise we’ve been offered, or nigh-on lack thereof: a three year deal offering 2%, 0% and 1%, below inflation and therefore a pay cut in real terms. We’ve been out on strike before, but in the four and a bit years I’ve worked at our place we’d never had a picket before. One was organised for the Thursday morning. “Ah,” I thought. “Chance for a new experience.”

Picketing, of course, is not what it was in the olden days. You’re not allowed to use the ‘s’ word, throw stones, set fire to anyone etc. Shame. No, in all seriousness I’m glad – I wouldn’t want to take part in a ‘nasty’ picket in the first place.

Out it was into the freezing cold, then, placard aloft. I was… let’s say disappointed by some of the faces I saw going in, but only two people behaved in any way you could call ‘rude’ to us (I do think it’s a slightly sad fact that picketers are very tightly bound by the rules of what is and isn’t considered intimidating, but picket-crossers can be as insulting as they like), with most either being friendly or desperately trying to get past as quickly as possible without looking any of us in the eye. What was depressing to see was that quite a few of the younger ones (younger than me) didn’t actually seem to know what a picket line was. That’s a scary thought. Our shop-floor reps also mentioned that a fair few people who get a lot of help from the union (for one reason or another) decided to go in. Such, I suppose, is life.

None of those whose conscience had told them to scwork actually turned back, but four people said they wouldn’t come in on the Friday (funnily enough, we forgot to mention that there wasn’t going to be a picket then. Oops, silly us and so on. Ahem.), so that was good. We got lots of beeps and waves from passing traffic as well, which was nice. I think that’s the main point of it these days, really – consciousness raising.

The funniest result came when the big guvnor at our place took her attention off her driving for a moment to respond (somewhat sarcastically, I felt) to our sweetest smiles and waves. An almighty crunching sound rang through the air, and when she was through the entrance onto the carpark we could see the huge gouge above her back-right wheel arch that had resulted from her car scraping off the gate. How we laughed. Oh, how we laughed.

She should join PCS. She could get money off some Halfords vouchers and get herself a pot of car paint.

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2 Responses

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  1. Bob Piper said, on 14 December, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Well said Russ. It’s such a shame that so many people these days have never shared the solidarity of being on strike.

  2. Russ L said, on 14 December, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Coo. The first local-councillor-posting on this blog. A milestone.


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