Friday, 5 March 2010

Miners strike, the unions and workers co-operatives

This year is the 25th anniversary of the end of miners' strike in 1985. I was in my teens when it was taking place and knew very little about the causes but do remember seeing people with buckets in the city centre collecting money for the miners and their families.

Looking back it's clear that Margaret Thatcher was trying to destroy the power of the unions and in the process destroyed local communities and a vital industry.

The UK used to produce the vast majority of its coal requirements; for example in 1980 it produced 130 million tonnes and imported 7½ million tonnes. Imports were mainly of coking coal or other grades that the UK’s mines could not readily produce. As the UK’s coal production declined, imports rose steadily and a milestone was reached in 2001 when more coal was imported (35½ million tonnes) than was produced in the UK (32 million tonnes). Imports have continued to increase as more coal handling capacity has been installed at British ports and imports reached a record 44 million tonnes in 2005. UK coal production in 2005 was 20½ million tonnes. Britain consumed 62.7m tons of coal in 2007 and of that total 43.3m tons were imported, mostly from Russia and South Africa

During the 1970's the unions were at the height of their power.
There were endless strikes afflicting the Post Office, steel industry, the ferries, steelworks and much more. Car and truck-maker British Leyland was repeatedly brought to a standstill in the Midlands. In 1979 public sector workers went out on strike for weeks. Uncollected mountains of rubbish piled high in the cities, Green Goddesses were on the streets, and bodies remained unburied. The latter only happened in Liverpool, but became an emblem of the chaos inflicted on the public by the unions.

WINTER OF DISCONTENT: Rubbish in Leicester Square, London, in the council workers' strike of 1979

Rather than simply representing their members in the workplace the unions, with their Communist leadership, wanted to bring the country to its knees. The mass industrial action was not for the benefit of their members but an attempt to impose a Communist revolution.

Bringing the unions down was necessary but Thatcher didn't care what else she destroyed in the process. Her destruction of
industries and communities was a tragedy. Let's not forget, though, that the union leadership was just as guilty as Thatcher.

I've never been a member of a union. They just perpetuate the class struggle, workers against bosses. It's in the unions own interest to have an enemy, of course, without the enemy they would be unnecessary and their dreams of Communist revolution would disappear along with their leaders six figure salaries.

Wouldn't our working life be much more pleasant if workers and bosses worked together for the benefit of all instead of this constant battle?

Of course that ideal world doesn't yet exist and there are still bosses out there who exploit their workers at every opportunity. So what's the answer?

How about workers co-operatives?

Worker co‑operatives are businesses that are owned and controlled by their employee members using co‑operative principles. Each of the members - from the manager to the office junior - owns a share of the business. Decisions are made democratically and profits are shared among the members or put back into the business. Conflict and strife are minimised because workers and owners are one and the same.

Isn't that a better way than left wing class war unions or the capitalists' exploitation of workers?

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