Mark Steel: The anti-union brigade are just a bunch of hypocrites

The rage against the unions takes some spledidly imaginative forms

Share
Related Topics

Here we go. It's time to blame everything on the unions again. So Gordon Brown calls the planned cabin crews' strike "deplorable", but the Tories and most newspapers scream this isn't enough. Presumably David Cameron will make a statement that starts, "This is much worse than deplorable, Gordon Brown, it's shit. Absolute shit. And I don't mean like a cow pat, that can be quite endearing in a rural setting, I mean a great squashy dollop left by an untrained Alsatian. So why doesn't the Prime Minister go ahead and say so."

Every news report seems to start with someone explaining their distress about the possible cancellation of their journey, and you expect the reporter to finish by turning to the camera and saying "See what you've done, you unions? I covered the war in Bosnia but this beats anything that happened there. I hope you're pleased with yourselves you bastards. And with that, back to the studio."

The strange part is that BA cabin crews don't generally come across as the selfish wrecking thugs they're now portrayed as. They mostly smile and bring you stuff, so why would 80 per cent of them vote twice for a strike? Perhaps it's because the company wants to bring in new staff on inferior terms to those offered to current employees, with less security and lower wages than the current basic rate of £18,000.

The most common response to this complaint is the current terms can't go on, because Easyjet and Ryanair pay their staff much less. And it's not fair if some people are being treated horribly, so the answer is to treat everyone horribly and then no one feels bad. Maybe charities should work like this. Oxfam could go to Mozambique and say, "So you're living on a bowl of rice a day are you? Well in Somalia they're living on half a bowl of rice a day, so we're taking half your rice away you greedy pigs."

The anti-union rage takes some splendidly imaginative forms. The Conservatives are demanding that Gordon Brown refuses to take funding from Unite. This seems reasonable, as Unite have never shuffled their assets to Belize, never lied about bringing them back, have open votes about political donations and represent the interests of one-and-a-half-million people instead of one person, so they clearly know nothing about how to run a modern business.

And The Daily Telegraph informed us the strike is part of a plot for the unions to run the country, and as part of the evidence one of the Unite offices is "A few doors down from the old Communist Party HQ". Even McCarthy, as far as I know, didn't bellow, "Have you or have you ever been or have you ever lived a few doors down from a communist?"

But that's because he was too soft. Everyone knows the old trick of living a few doors down from the old headquarters, then you only have to nip back in time and you're only a few doors from the current headquarters, with a short walk to ask advice on how to turn the country communist in the future by calling a strike of cabin crews. As it's only a few doors away this means there must be other places, a Boots the chemist perhaps, that are even nearer. Buy a tube of toothpaste from the place and you're as good as selling the old Soviet Union our nuclear missiles.

The people who foam with rage about the union say, "Now is not the time for a strike" as if they want to offer it strategic advice. But if a management imposes a new set of substantially worse conditions, what is a union supposed to do? Does it wait 20 years for a quiet moment, or maybe only bring out the retired and dead members on strike, so no one will notice, in the hope this will win over public opinion?

The anti-union lobby claim they don't mind unions as long as they're responsible, but it's more accurate to say they don't mind unions as long as they're ineffective. They'd be happy if a union was like a church group, and told its members "We've all been given a 40 per cent wage cut, so in response we're going to have some lovely Madeira cake and a game of whist."

So now we should prepare for the next phase, once the strike's begun, in which every news report begins by telling us "Heroic passengers on one plane beat the strike by dishing out their own chicken and unidentifiable pudding, and pointing to the emergency exits while no one took any notice themselves. 'We beat Hitler so we can trounce this lot,' said one woman, who has now been recommended for the Victoria Cross".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Hang on – that’s not how it’s supposed to be written

Guy Keleny
Rafael Nadal is down and out, beaten by Dustin Brown at Wimbledon – but an era is not thereby ended  

Sad as it is, Rafael Nadal's decline does not mark the end of tennis's golden era

Tom Peck
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test