March 18, 2010

NO ONE MOURNS THE MINERS:

An assault on unions is an attack on democracy itself (Seumas Milne, 3/17/10, guardian.co.uk)

It may still be nearly two months until the general election, but we're already well and truly in la-la land. The prospect of a strike by British Airways cabin crew has unleashed a torrent of bizarre anti-union fantasies from the Tory leadership and its media cheerleaders. For the Mail, "red barons" and "union bullies" have Britain by the throat, dictating terms to a helpless government, bought and paid for by the BA union Unite. In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh brands the 1.6 million-strong Unite the "terrorist wing" of the trade union movement.

Today David Cameron ditched compassionate conservatism for vintage Thatcherism, demanding that Gordon Brown call on BA workers to cross picket lines and back those "brave workers" who wanted to go to work. His sidekick, Michael Gove, insisted Labour had reverted to "1970s socialism". Even the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has been hailing Margaret Thatcher's socially devastating assault on "a vested interest, the trade unions". [...]

As chance would have it, the first large-scale industrial dispute after Tony Blair came to power in 1997 was over an abortive attempt to drive down BA cabin crew pay and conditions. The fact that what looks likely to be the last big strike of the New Labour era is a response to a far more ferocious attack on the same group of workers, only highlights how little the government has done to shift the lopsided balance of power in the workplace.

As the events of the last week have shown beyond question, it is BA's outgoing chief executive, Willie Walsh, not the 12,000 cabin crew condemned by the media and politicians, who will be responsible if this weekend's walkout goes ahead. By refusing to allow BA's own offer or Unite's alternative package of savings to be put to a ballot unless the strikes were called off, he made sure they would not be – and demonstrated that his real aim is now to break the union.


This fight was won three decades ago. Renewing it is just a sign of how reactionary the Left has become in its nostalgia for the Second Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 18, 2010 6:05 AM
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