I’ve always supported striking workers. I’ve been on strike myself. I know that no-one strikes easily and workers have to be really pushed and feel they have run out of other options before resorting to withdrawing their labour.
I get angry when I see comments or hear people saying that workers shouldn’t be allowed to strike. What? They’re just supposed to lie down and take ever worsening conditions? They shouldn’t stand up for their rights? They shouldn’t have freedom of speech? And worst of all, they should be forced to go to work? Yeah, let’s all go back to the good old days of serfdom, right?
Or how about the inane comments that people should just leave their jobs if they aren’t happy? As though that’s an easy solution. Firstly, most people don’t have the luxury of just being able to leave their jobs. Particularly when a whole sector is treating its workers poorly, so changing jobs won’t make the slightest bit of difference.
Secondly, what would happen if people really did say ‘enough is enough’ and leave their jobs? This has been happening in teaching where droves of teachers are leaving the profession (50,000 left the profession last year alone). It’s led to a recruitment crisis, the consequences of which are children being taught by people not qualified to teach and schools handing over vast amounts of their budgets to supply and recruitment agencies (£1.26 billion last year).
And imagine what would happen if the 98% of junior doctors who voted to strike just left their jobs instead?
Maybe a few of the people who make comments such as these are in such a great position that they never need worry about being treated poorly and taken advantage of at work or seeing their pay being slashed in real terms and their benefits and conditions being eroded. That doesn’t make it okay to not care about the rest of us.
I assume that most of these comments are made by ordinary people though. Ordinary workers who are just as likely to be in this situation themselves. I really struggle to understand why they want to support the bosses and governments rather than ordinary workers like themselves. Surely they should be cheering on the people brave enough and angry enough and desperate enough to strike and taking encouragement and inspiration from them to maybe make a stand themselves?
This is how I feel.
Last night, as I was driving home I heard on the news about the Swissport strike that is scheduled for the 23rd and 24th of December.
Swissport? Never heard of them? Neither had I.
Swissport is a Swiss company that has the contract to manage most of what goes on in airports. This includes baggage handling, boarding procedures, de-icing the planes’ wings … just about everything that means planes can take off and land.
They have the contract for most UK airports and if their workers strike it will mean most UK airports will have to close. (Though apparently a few airlines employ their own staff to do these jobs and so they may still be able to operate).
My brother and nieces are due to fly to Manchester from Germany on the 23rd.
They can’t change their flight to the day before because my nieces don’t finish school until lunchtime on the 23rd and my brother has to work.
If they can’t fly on the 23rd or even on the 24th it’s not just a case of getting a flight on the 25th when airports open again. The two days before Christmas must be the busiest of the year and although some people may decide not to travel, most will still want to. So that will be a massive backlog. Passengers booked to travel on flights on the days following the strike can’t be bumped off, so the delayed passengers will have to wait for available seats.
Even if my brother is offered a flight on Christmas Day, I doubt any trains would be running to get him to Frankfurt. And as it’s several hours away, a taxi would be out of the question.
So with the threat of Christmas being cancelled (I’m not big on Christmas so for me it’s more about not seeing my nieces and knowing how upset they’ll be to have their Christmas cancelled) I’m struggling to support this strike.
Then I feel guilty because I’m something I thought I would never be: a NIMBY*.
Oh yes, it’s easy to support strikes when they don’t affect me. But the first time one has a direct affect on me and I’m wavering.
Of course, I support the workers and want to wish them every success. But not on those dates, pleeeease.
I understand that for a strike to have any chance of success it has to make an impact and those are the dates on which it will have the biggest impact. But at the same time, I can’t help thinking that when teachers have been on strike we’ve always timed it so it wouldn’t affect GCSEs even though this would be the time of biggest impact.
So can’t the Swissport workers be a bit more like us?
Even as I write this my mind is full of internal conflict. Am I a fraud if the first time something directly affects me I abandon my values and principles? Or am I a terrible person if I put my values and principles before my family?
Whatever ends up happening, I’m going to learn something about myself from it. And that can only be a good thing even if I don’t like what I learn.
In the meantime, I’m going to put my faith in the universe and my belief that things usually happen for a reason and as long as you keep a positive mindset everything works out okay and sometimes even better than it would have done if life hadn’t been nudged from its planned trajectory.
*NIMBY is an acronym for ‘not in my backyard’.
Are you going to be affected by this strike? Are you making backup plans? Or have you ever had to question your values like I’m doing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.