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Royal Mail strikes

Socialism in action! The Royal Mail has been on strike on and off for the last couple of weeks, throwing all mail delivery into chaos.

Ok, ok, strike actions are not a socialist phenomena, but rather an attribute of a healthy and democratic industrial society. Yet, it is in those industrial countries whose laws provide the workers with the most social protection and benefits that the strikes are most common. You don’t have to live in France to know that one union or another strikes over there practically every week. England is not far behind.

I think that there is obvious cause and effect here. The more laws are being passed to ensure the well-being and “rights” of an employee, the more that employee, en masse, feels entitled to demand more. And if the demands are not met, the unionized worker’s approach is to stop working altogether, which is not that much of a hardship in a social-programs-rich country: Medicine is free, schools are free, housing is often subsidized…

Belonging to a somewhat elite profession, I clearly cannot understand everyday plight of a mail carrier or an auto-factory worker. But if I were to decide to stop working due to not being happy with my employer, the outcome would be singularly termination. Instead, my recourse for a less-than-agreeable treatment is to take my services elsewhere. It befuddles me that a unionized worker’s m.o. is to say, effectively, I do not like how I am being treated, so in return I’ll stop providing my services, but you still have to retain my services and actually start treating me better, because I am entitled to providing my services to you, but under better conditions… Absurd!

And some of the striking unions seem to be at it every few months or so. Does their moderate success in using strikes as negotiating tactic encourages them to repeat?

Oops, the entry turns out overly opinionated and political, even though my initial intent was to simply mention the following related curiosity.

Rich people that we are, we ordered a case of wine that we could not find in stores from a distributor. That was on Thursday. The distributor called us on Sunday morning, apologized for disturbance and inquired whether we would be willing to accept delivery by a courier. You see, with the Royal Mail strike, we are unsure whether we can provide satisfactory service, so we decided to hire a courier for deliveries, explained the guy.

We did not decline.

Posted in Expat Archive

7 Comments

  1. Vodyanoi

    > You don’t have to live in France to know that one union or another strikes over there practically every week. England is not far behind.

    You might like to check your facts here, by doing rather more research.

    According to the Financial Times, June 12 2007:

    “The result is that Britain, from having one of the worst industrial relations records among European Union and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, has one of the lowest number of days lost through strikes. Figures published last year by the ONS reported that the UK strike rate – the number of days lost per 1,000 workers – was the 19th lowest out of 26 nations studied in 2004.

    The UK lost only 25 days a year per 1,000 workers on average between 1995 to 2004. This compared with 40 days lost in the US; 200 in Spain; 172 in Denmark; 100 in Italy, 193 in Canada and 68 in Australia. The average for the 12 EU countries for which statistics were available was 59 days and 48 days for OECD countries.”

    Please note the U.S. statistic!

  2. Ilya

    Thanks for pointing this out, but while I admire your willingness to stand up for UK, please forgive me if I view this statistic as pointless.

    In the last few months, besides the protracted postal workers’ strike, I saw industrial actions by transportation workers, policemen and even teachers here in the UK. Do similar actions happen in the US? Some, although I cannot recall ever being affected by one; and the last major one that I remember – NYC transportation strike of 2005 – was illegal, by the way. Instead, majority of strikes in the US are localized and affect directly only the corporations at which they are aimed, rather than the general public. Do they collectively cause more lost days? I honestly do not care.

    My point was – from purely an observational stance – that strikes affecting general population at large appear to be significantly more commonplace in England than in the States (although I did mention France as a bigger offender in that regard). If some statistic shows that an average Briton spends less time on strike than an average American, I can only shrug my shoulders and say, “Does not feel that way where I stand”

  3. Vodyanoi

    > My point was – from purely an observational stance – that strikes affecting general population at large appear to be significantly more commonplace in England than in the States

    And my point was that your observational stance is not supported by the objective data. But thank you for your reply!

  4. Ilya

    The crux of our disagreement here is whether a reputable statistic can be called universally objective.

    You quote a number that seemingly does not differentiate a trivial industrial action (such as a baseball players’ strike or an auto-factory workers’ walkout) from a heavy-impact one (such as a stoppage in an essential public service). I maintain that your generic number does not disprove my point of view – or even rises to any level of relevance beyond a curious footnote in relation to my point of view.

  5. Vodyanoi

    > My point was – from purely an observational stance – that strikes affecting general population at large appear to be significantly more commonplace in England than in the States

    In effect, what you are saying is, “England has more strikes of the kind that I personally select in order to prove that England has more strikes than the U.S.A.”

    I’m not entirely sure if the above is a ‘circular argument’ in terms of logic, but I am reasonably sure it is ‘cherry picking’, in other words, selective use of evidence. There is nothing wrong with this, except that you should have forewarned your readers that you were going to use selective data, rather than present them with a questionable generalization. (By the way, I have difficulty in understanding the point of your instance of a strike being illegal. Does the production lost by one day of an illegal strike represent anything different from the production lost by a legal one? I suspect not.)

    But hey, cheer up! It’s your blog, and you can say what you want in it. You can, for example, maintain that the moon is made of green cheese; or that the Earth is flat; or that at the end of every rainbow there is a pot of gold guarded by a leprechaun. It is probable that there would be no way in which I could persuade *you*, if you held such entrenched views, that there was very little evidence to support them.

    But I might be able to sway others who read this blog.

  6. Ilya

    Honestly, I can’t really see what it is that you are trying to sway. To justify your misguided perspective that my readers require protection from my supposedly biased attitudes towards England, you’ll need to do better than submit a broad statistical nugget aimed at disproving a cursory statement, split hairs on my verbiage and offer a bizarrely superficial correction. I am beyond ecstatic to give anyone a purposeful pursuit, but come on, my audience is exposed to the horrors of my personal opinions (btw, have you ever read my short terms of service?), and you are going at it in a half-hearted way…

    Now, about that leprechaun… I was perfectly sure that [voice trails off]…

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