Why are strikes predominantly in the public sector?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by TUC, 12 May 2015.

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  1. TUC

    TUC Established Member

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    I'm conscious that the proposed RMT action is being discussed on another board so this is intended to be a broader question. Whilst the number of strikes are much fewer than in tbe 1970s, it's noticable that the majority that do occur, from rail staff to teachers to civil srrvsnts are either in the public sector or in services that are funded by the public purse. Why should this be the case?
     
    Last edited: 12 May 2015
  2. A-driver

    A-driver Established Member

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    Because they are the only industry left with decent pensions, pay, contracts and conditions and employers are constantly trying to erode that away and the workforce wish to keep hold of it.

    It's not easy to strike when on a zero hours contract.
     
  3. Harpers Tate

    Harpers Tate Member

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    You can probably extend the scope of the observation to include those that were in the public sector and are now private; British Airways workers, for example, seem to be more militant than other local airlines.
     
  4. TheNewNo2

    TheNewNo2 Member

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    Because the public sector is generally more unionised, and strikes are more effective.
     
  5. Barn

    Barn Established Member

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    Because strikes make a big impact but don't usually imperil the financial standing of the employer.
     
  6. Mag_seven

    Mag_seven Established Member

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    Because in times of austerity (caused by private sector bankers), the wages and pensions of public sector workers are seen as a soft target.
     
    Last edited: 12 May 2015
  7. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

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    Speaking as a former Civil Servant, who was a member of one of the more moderate unions, one of the main reasons for a more militant attitude is that our employers, being politicians (local or national), wouldn't listen to reason and were not prepared to negotiate for much of the time. I don't think the situation has changed much since I left!
     
  8. Simon11

    Simon11 Member Jobs & Careers Assistant

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    In the private industry, if you don't like the T&C, you leave for a better company. Its not so easy for workers in the public industry to move elsewhere like firefighters & nurses who wish to continue in their roles.
     
  9. carriageline

    carriageline Established Member

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    Is it also the case that private sector jobs are more competitive, as there are companies out there that would happily poach staff, so companies have to stay competitive to keep them?

    Of course TOCs and FOCs are similar, but you are much more restricted to choice unless you wanted to relocate.
     
  10. Abpj17

    Abpj17 Member

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    It's further than that - if you strike as a private company - you may just be making the company you work with more uncompetitive, which leads to less customers, which leads to job losses in the medium term.

    Public sector/ex-public sector are different as they have less competition. E.g. most TOCs don't have brilliant competition for individual journeys (only at the point of contract renewal).
     
  11. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I think the simple reason is, since Thatcher's reforms in the 80s, employers have a choice as to whether they recognise a trade union or not. Many private sector employers choose not to recognise a trade union. Whilst a trade union can apply for statutory recognition, employers will usually try and prevent staff from wanting to go down that route, and will often provide just enough (usually a combination of pay/benefits and scare stories about moving the factory to Romania) to stop it happening.

    In the public sector, trade unions retained their recognition since before the 80s reforms, so there's already a base of trade unionism to work against. But even then not all industries in the public sector have the same desire to strike.

    Transport workers do tend to be more militant, but then transport management also tend to be more militant the other way- look at TfL's "consultation" on getting rid of ticket offices that ignored the views of staff and passengers. Other sectors are less so- you don't see nurses go on strike because they don't want to harm patients (and that's a big reason why NHS staff are being treated like crap).
     
  12. jcollins

    jcollins Veteran Member

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    What would the new government rules make of a ballot like this:

    https://www.rmt.org.uk/about/ballot...ervice-2013--merseyrail-drivers/?preview=true

    If instead of both voting yes - one person voted yes and another person voted no?
     
  13. talltim

    talltim Established Member

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    Its interesting that unions started in the private sector and are now pretty much in the public sector.
     
  14. cb a1

    cb a1 Member

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    I am not claiming that this applies across all public sector jobs, but in my own very small field I would have to take at least a £10,000 pay CUT if I chose to go and work in the public sector rather than the private sector.


    Do we have any unions where I work? No. It's a pretty small company and if I'm not happy with my T&C I just have to knock on the MD's door and negotiate. If I don't like what's offered, there are plenty of other companies to go and work for.

    Contrast that with the public sector where it would appear that every term and condition of employment is nailed down tight with strictly defined limits of variation across thousands or tens of thousands of workers. If I worked in the public sector, I would be a union member.
     
  15. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I think I'd agree with that too, cb_a1.

    I used to work in the private sector, where I was (on more than one occasion) able to secure a pay rise by reminding the Big Boss that I was good at my job and that x company were willing to pay me more.

    I now work in higher education, where every job is tied to a pay grade and there is no deviation from that pay grade. And all public universities- even Oxford and Cambridge- are all tied into that same pay scale, so even if I move employers I'll still be at the same pay grade. Naturally this means that the only scope for pay rises is through negotiated settlements or through promotion, so of course I'm in UCU and of course I'll be more amenable to strike action to get what I need from my employer.
     
  16. TheKnightWho

    TheKnightWho Established Member

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    And indeed you lot have meant some of my bloody lectures got cancelled ;)

    (Disclaimer: I fully support the right to strike.)
     
  17. carriageline

    carriageline Established Member

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    I believe everyone should have the right to strike, but it needs to be used carefully. Striking over menial things is bullying and holding the company to ransom. That's why the proper channels need to be followed first
     
  18. A-driver

    A-driver Established Member

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    Yes, and to be fair rail unions don't hold companies to ransom and do go through all channels before striking. Strikes on the rails are very, very rare. The problem is that the media reports non existant strike threats. As soon as ANY possibility of industrial action (strike or not) is hinted at (ie even routine pay talks where no Union rep has mentioned IA) the right wing media prints headlines of strike action.
     
  19. 455driver

    455driver Veteran Member

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    Got to give the readership what they want, why let truth get in the way eh!
     
  20. SS4

    SS4 Established Member

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    Got to tell the readership what they want too. I find it to be one of the reasons why management often won't listen to unions
     
  21. Arctic Troll

    Arctic Troll Established Member

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    I don't think anyone strikes unless it is very important to them, because it costs a lot of money. I know from my own strike action last year that the money I lost was only just covered by the pay rise we secured, and that most of my colleagues actually lost money because of the strike action. The only positive from our strike action is that my employer donated the unpaid wages to the university's hardship fund, but I'd bet that doesn't happen in other sectors.

    The "bullying" works both ways, really. Management know that they can try and wait out a lot of strikes, because each strike day costs a fortune to the strikers and gives a fortune to the management.
     
  22. 455driver

    455driver Veteran Member

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    Can you list 6 instances of strikes taking place over menial things!

    I mean as you have posted the statement above you surely have some examples to back up that statement otherwise I claim that you are talking out of your derriere!
     
  23. carriageline

    carriageline Established Member

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    Calm down you've misunderstood my point, as someone who put 2 YES ticks in my ballot paper that has lead to this strike action, then I claim I am not talking out of my ass.

    What I meant was, everyone (not just the railway here) should have the right to strike and fight for their T&Cs. But if that was to happen, the proper channels of negotiation should be followed first (which they always are for us rail folk).

    Personally? I don't want to go out on strike "just" over a pay rise, I feel a overtime ban would be better for a disputes over pay. If they was making us redundant, or attacking T&Cs then a full strike walk out is needed. But as I have said thousands of times on this forum this is much more than a pay rise, but the public do not know and won't be told this. Nor will they probably care.

    I haven't said anywhere that striking has happened over menial things. I fully support this action, and any previous strike action taken on the railway. I am just saying ANY strike action should be the most final action, and not over "small" things, again I reiterate. I'm not saying it ever has, just that it shouldn't happen.
     
    Last edited: 14 May 2015
  24. ralphchadkirk

    ralphchadkirk Established Member

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    The government are trying to get even more out the workforce for even less money. Public sector workers are being pushed to the limit.
     
  25. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Oh for the good old days of the period between the two world wars, when kind Uncle Joe Stalin would never for one minute have asked any of the proletariat to do anything that you describe above in the bright new world of the post Russian revolution under the Communist government that put to rights all the grievances of all the workers.

    Do you remember that Uncle Joe Stalin was so concerned for the health of the collective farm workers in that period in one of their main food producing areas, that he kindly set up a regime to ensure that no-one would be overweight by setting up controls over their daily food intake....:roll:
     
  26. fowler9

    fowler9 Established Member

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    Public sector workers often have far better terms and conditions and pay than private sector workers doing similar level jobs.
     
  27. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Paul - what on earth are you talking about? How is this linked in anyway to the matter at hand? Are you suggesting that all union people are communist? If you are you are talking out of your hat.
     
  28. Paul Sidorczuk

    Paul Sidorczuk Veteran Member

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    Not so, comrade from Darlington, even wearing my best Harris Tweed hat. I was using this analogy to make a comparison with the implied capitalist threat in an earlier posting to what occurred under the Soviet regime in Russia in the 1920's and 1930's. The workers can be just as much oppressed under Communism as under Capitalism.
     
  29. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    Clearly! with the added bonus of the gulag
     
  30. ralphchadkirk

    ralphchadkirk Established Member

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    It's not as simple as that. Generally pay is higher in the private sector, but this is not constant and the private sector catches up every so often. The other issue is that low-skilled public sector jobs have generally been outsourced to the private sector, meaning that there is a higher proportion of high-skilled jobs in the public sector, which generally command better pay. Public sector workers also tend to be older and more experienced than private sector workers. Also, how do you define a similar level job? There aren't equivalents for many public sector jobs. A consultant may earn more working privately than when working in the NHS. For some, working privately may mean more money but less support and less regulation making the job itself more risky.

    The pressure on public sector workers at the moment is unbelievable. In most areas there is a culture of bullying because of completely unrealistic government imposed targets, chronic underinvestment whilst working long hours with little or no breaks and a government continually trying to erode terms and conditions and reduce pay to satisfy those who whine that the public sector earn more. If that's true, then why not just get a job in the public sector?
     
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