Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Roll on, the six month strike

“Strike as long as you like”, Ross Clark combatively advises council strikers today in The Times. Why? Well, in the usual aren't-I-clever way of the Blusterer column, he's making the case that, in fact, none of these workers does anything useful, so we won't notice if they stop doing it. Aha, they'll just put themselves out of jobs!

The difference between now and 1979 is that council workers no longer do much in the way of real work,” Clark informs his readers. Instead of fulfilling any useful function, “they are employed in trifling bureaucratic matters that few of us will miss.” Everything important, or at least rubbish collection and grave digging, has apparently been contracted out.

Ross Clark's hoping that “these bolshie town hall employees will strike for six months or more”. Then “[a]ll they will achieve is to expose the pointlessness of their jobs.” After some silly-sounding job titles plucked from the Guardian's Society section he's done – off to spend his fee. If unargued, bald assertions are all you can manage, the Blusterer's four hundred word limit is a great boon.

Of course, if those assertions are shown clearly to be false in the same edition of the paper as that column, it might be thought of as a slight problem -- that is, if the aim isn't just to provide rich people with something to hear-hear over breakfast.

Because it does appear that he was wrong, at least if functioning schools are deemed “useful” -- or libraries, or leisure centres. But maybe these state institutions aren't really of much concern to the moneyed Times writer. What about the very things Clark claimed would be unaffected? Bafflingly, in spite of that glorious privatisation he mentioned, the strike “disrupted refuse collection, street cleaning and the running of courts”. “In some places, burials were cancelled.” Is this enough?

No? How about – admittedly the preserve of the lower orders, by dint of their location – the Mersey Tunnels, reduced to emergency vehicles only, or the Mersey ferry service, or the Tyneside Metro rail service, or the Tyne Tunnel crossing, all closed? According to Unison, “120 schools, 24 libraries and 15 leisure centres” were closed in Liverpool alone. All, one must assume, because their operations hinged on “trifling bureaucratic matters”.

Even the North East Chamber of Commerce seemed to mind, claiming it would lead to “transport havoc”. But roll on, the six month strike – Ross doesn't care.

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