How do you Stop the Strikes? Feed Traffic Wardens to the Rancor and Privatise Southampton

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Is it me or are these bin men, parking wardens and every other council worker on strike at the moment behaving a little irresponsibly?

It’s fair play to go on strike and have a protest or two, so long as it doesn’t result in the complete breakdown of a city. But someone yesterday (jokingly) put across to me the suggestion that we should all take our bin bags to the steps of the council and see how they react when faced with the putrid, rotting carcasses of yesterdays dinner, and the swarms of flies that come with it. Maybe they’ll give in and scrap the pay cuts when they see just how essential weekly bin collections are to the local community.

But I’ve a right mind instead to dump the filth with the trade unions that are agggresively rejecting the fiscal responsibility of the public sector. Anyone who works in the public sector must remember they are being funded by the taxpayer, and the taxpayer is miserable enough having to face up to reality without hearing that Itchen Bridge Toll Workers are playing protest outside the civic centre instead of doing their, er, jobs.  During these times when the economoy is bottoming out they should be just as susceptible to losing their employment as those who worked in the private sector. And that’s not me just being bitter about losing my job on the entertainment counter at Woolworths.

How many of us are actually siding with the protestors right now? Southampton City Council was offering them a cut in wages, not a redundancy package. In talks last week, the Council even proposed to cut by 50% the number that would actually have their pay packets fall. But where a month ago Royston Smith and the Council were the villains, plotting against their workforce with a sith-like coldness, now the trade unions and picketers are finding apathy is quickly replacing sympathy. I’m no Conservative, but I’d be half-tempted to privatise the whole council just to end the war of words.

Far be it from me to claim an omniscient presence in the government quarters but I was even surprised to know that refuse workers could have their wages cut and still be on the legal minimum hourly rate . Maybe this comes from years of jokes that failing school will lead to either two options – the dole or the bins – that instilled in me the theory that this job was nothing more than a minimum wage occupation.  There is some degree of acceptance when, for example, teachers strike. But, worryingly, I now fear the binmen earn a lot more than I first though. Maybe they earn more than whatever job I might find myself in after I graduate. Should I quit now, or wait for the inevitable depression of July 2013?

That’s before we remember traffic wardens are on strike. Now I don’t drive, but I can still empathise with those who have been on the wrong end of the law in this instance. If there was one job in the whole world that would fail to find any sort of public support when it comes to picketing, the traffic warden is it. At least we kind of want the bin men to come back to work. No-one would really miss the wardens if they lost their jobs, or better yet, were served up to the Rancor for breakfast.

So how long will we have to wait until Southampton begins to function again? Right now it’s a city that is toying with the idea of cutting off it’s thumbs and fingers prior to entering a k’nex-building tournament. The trade unions needs to realise that cuts are being made nation-wide and that their members will not be losing their jobs, in contrast to thousands of private sector job losses in the recession. Generally, the public sector works hard to make cuts with redundancies a last resort. Sometimes you just have to get on with the daily grind.

These protestors should look at the city they work for and see how valuable they are in running it. Then they should get back to work. There really isn’t much more to it than that.

 

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Discussion17 Comments

  1. avatar

    What utterly pretentious right wing drivel. Jamie Chadd your arrogance is outstanding. To suggest people who are striking to protect the wages that feed their families is ‘playing protest’ sickens me. You recognise that both collecting refuse or being a traffic warden are highly unpleasant jobs yet you seem to think that these ordinary workers don’t deserve a fair wage to do them.

    You should continue with your first line of attack against the council; one of the many reasons the negotiations are going on so long is the Council leader Royston Smith went on holiday to Egypt instead of sitting down with the workers to try and reach a deal.

    How depressing that you chose to write this article.

    Jamie Chadd
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    Hi Sam, thanks for your response. It’s always nice to recieve feedback, of any kind. I’d like to just clear up a few points you raised.

    Personally, I highly doubt that a 5% cut would see the workers drop out of the “fair wage” rating, which is a fairly blase term in my opinion. And as I state, the council is offering a pay cut to avoid job losses. In such economic downtimes surely it is a valid point to suggest accepting a pay cut is a reasonable, responsible action compared to hundreds (I think 400 was the figure) potentially losing their job? What will the strikers say if they win, there is no pay cut and 400 of them are made redundant?

    There is no value in this sort of strike when it is currently national policy (a policy which I don’t agree with, I’m a simple Keynsian economist) of cutting government spending in a recession. The council won’t budge all the way and currently striking is causing more problems than it is solving.

    I could (I don’t see there being a “should” here, with all due respect these are opinions we are dealing with) have taken your suggested route, and I fully agree that it is Smith who is hugely at fault for taking the holiday, but I do highlight that there is possibly a change of feeling towards who is in the wrong now he is back and a deal (a fair one in my opinion) has been put on the table. I’ve heard plenty people moaning about the binmen the past week, rather than the council – it’s a valid point to say sympathy may well have turned into apathy in this instance.

    In no way do I think privatising the council, or feeding traffic wardens to fictional star wars monsters, would solve the crisis.

    It was these references I hoped would underscore the fact that this article is less a detailed, academic breakdown of Southampton economic issues and more a tongue-in-cheek look at the current situation by a bitter (ex) Woolworths employee, who is a little bored of the smell lingering around the streets as described by Nile in another article.

    And can anyone really admit they would want to stick a “Save the Traffic Wardens” in their kitchen window?

    Luke O'Brien
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    They are striking because of proposed cuts to pensions, not their “wages that feed their families” Its either a 2.5-5.5% cut to their very generous public sector pensions, or 400 job losses. I know which I’d rather take!

    Sam
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    Teachers = Pensions
    Refuse Workers / Traffic Wardens = Pay

    Dan Jeffery
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    Luke, you’re obviously not actually paying attention to the proposals on the table if you think this is about pensions.

  2. avatar

    This sort of article belongs in the 1980s… nothing to do with the anti-union stuff, it’s just that was the last time when those Star Wars references might have been funny.

  3. avatar

    Jamie
    I think you raise some good points here, its not about a class war between the upper and lower classes, or between a left and right wing point of view its simply the need to take a balanced view that we are in a recession and everyone has to feel the squeeze. One can be uneducated and sit there and say that its all the bankers fault and they are just passing the problems onto everyone else but unfortunately the recession was largely caused by American bankers not our own, and their ambitious but admittedly risky policies are a large part of the reason people have a great deal more personal wealth on average than 30 years ago. (Look, I think they are greedy moneygrabbers too but they are just part of the system we are in and we should stop turning to them as a scapegoat).
    This strike is irresponsible as it does appear to me they do want to negociate with the council, who have made as many concessions as they can considering they need to cut their budgets.
    Idealogically, none of this would be happening, but there is less money to go around, and this strike seems both oblivious to public health and the need to negociate and find a middle ground.
    One thing though mate, you need to put this through more intensive editing, there were lots of errors that made the article slightly difficult to read and certainly lessened to what extent I treated it as an authority on the subject!

  4. avatar

    If you could tell me how forcing workers to take a pay cut or face redundancy is a fair negotiation, I’d be much obliged. As far as I can tell, that is not a negotiation, that is a declaration of intent.

  5. avatar

    I hope when you’re a big grown-up boy you’ll be embarrassed about this. But I’m keeping a copy of anyway, it in just case you ever become famous.

    best wishes,

    Rhona

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    Jamie, you actually believe that refuse workers should be on minimum wage? The idea of a wage is that it is supposed to reflect not only the skill required to do it but the rarity of the worker – refuse workers need bigger wages because nobody wants to do the job, which is completely understandable. I am so sick of this snobbery which gets banded around of “I went to university therefore my wage absolutely must be bigger than the wages of anyone who didn’t” – forgive me for being presumptuous but I’m guessing you want to be a journalist, a television producer et al? All fine professions (I wouldn’t mind doing something similar myself) but they’re 10 a penny, not to mention the quality of work condition will be in a completely different league of comfort and enjoyment.
    “But, worryingly, I now fear the binmen earn a lot more than I first though.” – what in your opinion is a worryingly high wage for refuse workers? Would you do it for £5.94?

    Jamie Chadd
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    I fully retract that statement, with my tail hanging delicately between my legs. I realise that is quite an uneducated, naive statement, that was obviously not delivered in the manner I intended. I apologise for the brashness of much of that passage.

    I’ll also take on board the fact that this is generally rushed and a little too messy, lacking structure and balance. However, comment pieces are generally there to spark discussion, and here it is basically a clash of idealogies: there is no right answer. I was hoping to stimulate debate on the issues involved rather than personal attack, however (Sam, Rhona).

    As for the rest, I will still stand behind my own opinion. I still think taking a pay cut is better than losing a job, and I still believe there is a responsibility to take a pay cut when it is national policy. If anything, the Council has been the most willing to negotiate (with the Unions not budging at all), and that has repeatedly been stated by all parties involved.

    Cheers for the responses and as a writer whose only just started out, all these comments are cheerfully taken on board.

    Anon
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    Chloe, I’m surprised you’re being this aggressive towards Jamie as you’ve been on the receiving end of such criticism and have been accused of snobbery yourself.

    In addition, his comments about the levels of pay came across badly. Pay, unfortunately, is reflective of the skill level required and it is the case across public and private sectors that manual labour is paid less, despite, in my view, being harder work and underappreciated work too. We live in a cruel world that does need to change, but, I don’t believe that someone can accuse another of snobbery when that very person would not be willing to do the job of a refuse collector… It goes against the very point you are making… It seems that it is you that believes that you should not do such a job after graduating.

    Anyway, I don’t want to be targeting you either, Chloe… I just thought you might be more thoughtful, considering reactions to your writing this year and how it made you feel.

    Jamie wrote an article… he was biased, yes. Some of his statements have been taken the wrong way… yes. However, who are we, as readers, to judge him? Our sweeping statements about his beliefs are no better than his about pay and striking… for some reason, it seems that writers can be attacked for attaching a real name to their work, whilst the readers can sit back and criticise from the comfort of their computers and lack of published surnames.

    Chloe
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    Hello Anon.
    Interesting that you say that I’ve been accused of snobbery – I’ve been accused of a lot, but snobbery wasn’t one I remember. And I am saying that wage snobbery is an issue, not job snobbery – I’m not claiming that I would or wouldn’t do this job, but I am saying that it does indeed deserve a fine wage. So no snobbery there.
    My name and photograph came up alongside my comment, so my comment being “from the comfort of [their] computers and lack of published surnames” isn’t a legitimate issue, especially coming from ‘Anon’. And I don’t think my comment was particularly explosive, just a valid point made about some of the issues in the wording, which Jamie himself was the first to admit to in response.

  7. avatar

    Whilst a very controversial article, I don’t believe that destructive criticism is necessary for a student starting out in journalism. If you disagree with comments, email the writer and they can then withdraw the article if necessary; attacking a writer is unnecessary… especially when those of you defending the rights of some will more than happily judge celebrities, MPs, councils, etc. for the jobs they do and the decisions they make.

    Refuse collectors and traffic wardens have the right to strike… but the council should not allow Southampton to become hazardous to the health of its citizens…there was clearly no preparation for the strike and it should not have been allowed to continue for so long.

    In addition, it would be hoped that, if those striking were really ‘striking to feed their families’, they would realise the dangers that their families face by being surrounded by rubbish left uncollected. It is hazardous to children and adults alike and therefore a long strike puts the very families it is allegedly trying to save at risk of illness.

    Nonetheless, if workers are unhappy, they have the right to strike. This article could have been slightly less biased BUT it does allow right to reply.

    I think that workers deserve a fair wage… however, one cannot ignore the fact that council workers across the country are having their pay frozen or cut… at least they are still in employment, unlike many private sector workers, and have a monetary source to feed their children from.

    Perhaps if those of you that were angered by this article had contacted Jamie directly or been less rude in your attack, he could have taken on board your concerns, had his views broadened by your comments, and written a follow-up article where he interviewed higher authorities and dealt with your concerns. Unfortunately, it seems that people are more keen on criticising the views of others, than opening them up to debate.

    I have kept my name anonymous, for fear of such people treating me with the same disrespect as they have towards this writer. I hope that other writers at the Wessex Scene are not put off writing in future, due to these destructive responses.

    Dan Jeffery
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    If you think having a robust and rigorous debate is “destructive criticism”, then you’re obviously not mature enough to participate in the kind of exchanges that are central to a free society.

    I am angered by this article because I think it is naive, ill-researched, and profoundly offensive to those employees concerned who are facing redundancy or worsened conditions. I believe that as the writer has posted his thoroughly reprehensible thoughts in a public sphere, any readers with a view should be free to voice their objections in the same manner. It seems to me that far from trying to mediate the discussion, you are instead asking people like me to bury our heads in the sand, simply because we’re not in agreement.

    I’m not going to keep my name anonymous, I’m Dan Jeffery, 3rd year Politics graduate, and I’m happy for you to contact me at any time regarding my post here. Why? Because I’m not ashamed of my views, and happy to clarify any points I have made with further evidence.

  8. avatar

    To Dan:

    Why does there have to be a fair negotiation?

    No one is forcing the workers to accept the lower wage, they can seek employment elsewhere.

    There are plenty of job seekers who would relish the opportunity to do this job and for the wage being offered. Why should the tax payer foot of artificially increased wages?

    It’s a waste of resources (money) that could be spent on saving youth provisions, increasing funding to social care and a lot more worthy causes.

    If these bin men want higher paying jobs, then they should get the qualifications and experience that a high paying job requires, and apply for those jobs.

  9. avatar

    Excellently put Jamie Chadd. Couldn’t agree more. The Union’s are being completely selfish and unreasonable. We have to face the fact that the UK has a record debt and that unpopular measures must be taken.

    Public sector pensions are simply unaffordable and are really quite unfair when you consider that those in the private sector could never have access to such golden deals.

    The council is being very reasonable to cut pay rather than jobs but if the unions can’t see beyond that then the council may unfortunately be left with no choice but to sack those workers and employ new ones. There is certainly no shortage of people who would want to work for those wages.

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