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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
In 1215 the Magna Carta forced the English King (at the time King John) to respect the laws of the land and guaranteed rights and protections to his subjects  

Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear

Nigel Farage
David Cameron and George Osborne tour building works at Manchester's Victoria Railway Station  

There’s more to the Tories caring about the North of England than meets the eye

Chris Blackhurst
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there