The wisdom of Sir Bob: Strikes

1974 The third Labour government under Norman Kirk enabled employers to take out injunctions against workers withdrawing their labour; Northern Drivers Union leader Bill Andersen was jailed for his union’s defying an injunction; the jailing sparked massive workers’ protests

There has been a fair bit of recent discussion surrounding Trade Unions, the amount of control they have over the Labour Party, and their penchant to organise Strikes when they feel that the lot of their comrades is not as it should be.

Hosking has recently had a crack where he recalls the damage that strikes had on his youth and predicts a great leap backwards to the evils of 1970’s Unionism. Christie’s excellent recent post on the possibilities of the unions actually bringing down the government also examines the influence of Trade Unions.

We have seen it all before. Sir Bob Jones way back in the ‘70’s, (when he was just an ordinary Knight less Bob Jones), had a few words to say about the Trade Unions, striking, and in particular the obscene practice of sympathy strikes. While he believed that it is an inalienable right for a worker to withhold his labour or to demand a higher price for it as often as he wishes, he was particularly damning in his criticism of the Unions and their striking ways.

In New Zealand the Way I Want It, (Whitcoulls Publishing, Christchurch, 1978), under a chapter titled “The contemporary anarchists – Trade Unions” he espouses: Quote:

If a worker is dissatisfied with wages and conditions and unable to negotiate an improvement, let him leave for fresher fields, not indulge in organised intimidation tantamount to brute thuggery. Prohibitive legislation ought be introduced also against sympathy strikes, which similarly represent organised thuggery. They take the form of industrial warfare against a totally innocent third party in the hope that that party will then be obliged to apply pressure on the unions’ behalf against the real cause of action. Unions indulging in sympathy strikes are, in principle, behaving exactly as guerrilla terrorists machine gunning innocent travellers at airports in countries with absolutely no connection with their cause.  This deplorable practice is cowardly, intimidatory abomination.  It would perhaps be understandable, although scarcely excusable, if the matter at issue was one of life and death but when, as is so often the case, it is undeniably trivial – a demarcation dispute or the number of tea-breaks allowable – then no words of condemnation are too strong.

Imagine the uproar from unionists if the New Zealand Medical Council declared that its members, in protest at strikers, would no longer provide medical services for them. Yet that is what a sympathy strike is about; only the roles would be reversed. But imagine the cry of horror from these same union leaders were the doctors to go further and say they would not provide their services for the family, friends or neighbours of a striker and would blacklist the entire street should any of their picketers detect anyone communicating with the striker. That, I repeat, is what a sympathy strike is about. End of quote.

Now, most Oilers have lived through the economy debilitating years where unions had so much control that they could bring entire industries to a halt. Many of us would have been members of our respective unions, either voluntarily or compulsorily.

But how many of Labour’s, new voters have lived through this? Would they still think compulsory unionism is a good idea if they had?

Would they be happy trying to pay their new, (affordable), $500,000 mortgage when they have no income for two months simply due to the fact that their union has gone out on strike in solidarity with their brothers down the road? Would they be happy to support those who made a decision to hold their employer hostage over the fact that the supervisor shouldn’t have insisted a builder move a bookcase as that was the job of a furniture removalist and that would be an infringement on the furniture remover’s livelihood?

It may be interesting to hear the views of Oilers who have been involved in strikes or sympathy strikes. How did you feel about it then? How did your partner or spouse feel about it? Have your thoughts about it all evolved over time?

It is worth thinking about because ‘A great leap backwards’ is coming to you soon, courtesy of your minority government.


Remember, if you don’t like holding musty old hardbacks, you can obtain access to Sir Bob’s latest musings by subscribing to Whaleoil at a Silver level subscription or above.

 

 

by ExPFC.


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

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