November 23rd, 2002

Unionism

This eight day firefighters strike is interesting. Mainly because of recent discussions of its implications on possible conflict with Iraq given the large military presence required to take over the task of firefighting.

With other unions threaterning to strike in the power industry as well as airport staff it makes me wonder how much hold unions could have, if they so wished, on foreign affairs.

Given the quite substantional anti war movement currently going on (and unions hardly being the biggest proponants of war) it makes me wonder that if there was enough feeling in these movements whether if things went far enough we could see a general strike of vital public servants.

What is to stop the unions, if they unite against such a cause, saying to the government not to proceed with military action under threat of a general strike of vital workers that would require the entire british armed forces to remain in the UK to carry out vital domestic work.

It would only take a handfull of services to do it too. The firefighters are allready having a big effect, it would just take the likes of ambulance drivers, non medical hospital staff, certain infantry police officers, aviation authorities, customs, power industry workers and so on and so on to drop tools and instantly make the army and possibly even the SBS and RAF unable to perform any foreign mission whatsoever due to having to run the country.

Now as I have mentioned, I am a firm supporter of the fire strike and also in a less strong minded vein, a cautious supporter of the anti-war movement. I am not the strongest of union supporters but a lot of recent strike threats have to me come over as justified and understandable. A semi general strike on the issue of war would be a very interesting one and to be honest I don't think it could be rulled out given some of the strength of the anti-war feeling in this country outside of top government.

It seems a bit far fetched and possibly unlikely but I have a feeling the unions are in a very powerfull position at the moment especially essential workers for whom industrial action means the military has to be called in.

I dont think there has been a precedant for union or industrial action ever having an effect on foreign policy but the hold over the army in recent days must really be food for thought. Blair's neglecting of domestic issues in recent months with his main attention being on foreign policy is a move that has caused him much critisism and to be honest a lot of it is deserved. Could things just come back to bite him do we think. I am sure none of this is over yet, not by a long stretch.
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