Bonfire Night Strike!

Bonfire Night strike.

Why has the London Fire Brigade chosen to strike when their services are most called for? Why do British Airways strike at popular holiday times?

Answers: because strikers want to have the most impact on their employers, through having the most impact on users and consumers. Also, because in this case the employer has threatened legal action, which raises the emotional temperature.

It is disingenuous of the union to argue that they only had a few weeks until 26th November to save jobs, and so choose a variety of dates which happened to include bonfire night. They should have been more open with the public along the lines of a strong impact of the strike leading to serious negotiations.

A further problem for the union is that there is a public perception that some members use the complex shift pattern to do second jobs. However, the management does not seem to have highlighted this issue much either. This give the impression that both parties are colluding in this dubious practice. It may fit management’s wish to keep wages low; and worker’s wish, or real need, to keep their second job.

Where risk to human life exists it suits management to blame workers for any loss of life as this gets public support for management. This makes it clear that there is a public relations battle which management takes seriously. The union needs to engage in this aspect of the conflict; and to win it. But how?

Surely they should put their case in the media. Not just through combative television interviews, but also through paid for advertisements; through leafleting areas of the city most likely to be affected; through addressing local residents groups; through being open and frank about levels of pay; and through honestly clarifying the slurs about night time sleeping in the station; and what effect, if any, this has on their ability to put out fires.

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