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.