So what could we do to deal with strikes, well the first thing that comes to mind would be to make them illegal; any right in law could be easily amended or changed with the will of parliament. However popular this may be with people on the right it would certainly bring about probably a general strike by the unions in an attempt to stop it. So maybe this is not the way to go just yet.
The other idea passed around was taking the Ronald Regan approach to it and just sack all the workers, just like he did with the Air Traffic control staff when they went on strike and brought in the military to cover for them. Now this sends a strong message to the unions and Regan didn’t really have much problems with them for the rest of his stint in office. But such an action in the UK would be hard at the moment as the military is stretched a bit and it would fill the employment tribunals with claims.
Then we have the Margret Thatcher approach of seeing who would back down first, as with the miners, again wouldn’t work in this situation as the unions have learned that long strikes are not really in their interest any more as the government has the power and money to outlast any prolonged strike. So they do carefully placed single days of action now.
So out of all the ideas there is only really one left and that’s making it law that a set percentage of union members have to vote in any ballot on strike action. It’s been said that at least 50% of members should vote so that at least we would stop strikes being called by 10% of the unions. But this I have an issue with, if we imposed something like this on the unions it would only be a matter of time before some people started to say that we should do the same for a general election; and one party getting 50% of the votes in a general election in a multi-party system would be near impossible and we would never have a government.
Now where does that leave us, on all the major ideas to deal with strike issues its sort of dried up a bit. But then I had an idea and one that I think is a jolly good idea at that. Now if the government does something to you that causes you loss or damages to property then you have a tortious claim against the government for damages to recover any costs. The same would apply to any private business, individuals or even a charity but in this case unions have a legal exemption from this.
This lead me to thinking, well the left preach a lot about equality, so let’s put some equality before the law here and lets remove the Unions legal protection form tortious claims for damages. Now obviously there would have to be some test drawn up which could be reasonably easy to do. Just showing that any losses incurred by an individual or a company were as a direct result of the industrial action would lead to the ability to claim for any losses as a result of it.
For example if say the teachers went on strike, parents could reclaim the cost of any child care they had to spend money on to enable them to go to work, or it would allow the parent to claim for any loss of earnings they may have suffered. This could equally apply to tube and bus strikes in London where extra travel costs could be claimed back from the unions, and so on so you get the picture.
Now this would mean strikes could happen and even with only 10% of the unions voting to strike, it would be no major change in the strike laws at all. It would just mean that unions had to think very carefully if they wanted to strike over an issue that is well a little frivolous in the eyes of the public. This way we allow strikes but ensure that there is some thought for the greater population not just the union members when they are called.
So there we have it, the perfect solution to industrial action, it doesn’t change the rights to hold strike action or limit their ability to strike action so they unions will be happy, but it also allows those caught up in unilateral damage from the strike action to get recompense; I think you have to agree it’s a fair and just solution all round.