Investors Can Withdraw But Workers Cannot?

Posted on: 20/12/2016

Strikes were a thing of the past in the UK - or so we thought.

Margaret Thatcher (remember her?) set out to destroy the power of organised labour - and how well she succeeded. The Trade Union movement was left in tatters, losing influence fast and members faster.

Such things are nearly always cyclical, however. What goes around comes around.

Why? Mainly because winners are usually arrogant to start with and grow more so, as success follows success.

In this case, the arrogance was married to stupidity. Successive governments sold off every nationalised industry they could, whilst at the same time encouraging the destruction of the Mutuals, including the previously cherished Building Societies.

So much that worked was ruined. We are living with the results today, with worker morale destroyed in many organisations. The concept of public service has been written out of the script by aggressive entrepreneurs and private equity investors, whose objectives are very different to those set for nationalised industries.

Wealth creation? For the 5%, perhaps. For the rest, the average lives they had before are now even more average. Poverty, old age and ill-health are all feared by this huge group, because safety nets, which were never particularly safe anyway, have been shredded by government-enforced austerity.

Then along came the railway staff, working for a peculiarly badly managed entity named Southern Rail. This outfit has been awarded a particularly lucrative contract by the government, under which they basically do better if they carry fewer passengers. Southern get a fat "Management Fee", virtually come what may, with ticket sale revenue (if any) going straight into the public coffers.

Southern have taken cost reduction to the limit by arranging that their staff are so alienated that they now regularly strike. This has eliminated many trains and most of Southern's costs, so they cannot be too unhappy. 

Meantime, the traveling (?) public are having their lives badly disrupted or, in some cases, completely destroyed.

As always happens in these situations, calls go out for "public service" workers right to strike to be restricted.

The problem is, of course, that there are no longer any true public services, owned by the State. Privatisation has been implemented in every sector.

Many public services are now in the ownership of stock-market listed companies, where investors are free to buy and sell their shares at a moments notice. 

Directors and top management of the "public service" operators are barely more committed than shareholders. They collect the proceeds from their share options and then move on before they can be held to account for the outcomes of their work, good or bad.

Meantime, workers should not be allowed to strike?

Sorry. That would not be fair.

Fairness. Recall that concept and you will realise how far we have moved away from it.

Anyway, in fairness, Southern Rail workers cannot be expected to give up their right to strike.

The question now is: who will win?

Are railway workers the miners of 2016?

We shall see.

One thing is certain. The Public will lose. When the strikes are over, service standards will continue to deteriorate. 

There are, of course, potential solutions to these problems. Solutions that can work at every level, including in terms of finances.

I will explore those solutions during 2017.

In the meantime, I wish all of you a very happy Christmas & a happy and very prosperous 2017!

Lets hope we can get the UK back on track next year.



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