Thursday, Oct 08, 2009

Flexible labour force

AssPress: UK postal workers vote in favor of strike

If the UK labour force is so flexible and dynamic, why are we facing a shut down on postal services and travel in London?

Posted by stillthinking @ 03:04 PM (1396 views)
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1. mark wadsworth said...

Was it a postal vote?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 04:03PM Report Comment

2. alan said...

Suggest you ask one of the posties or a train worker.

When I did it they said the management were hopeless and frequently blamed them for badly installed technology and weak/insensitive planning. When T5 had all those problems a short while ago, the paper trail showed that sensible suggestions by the workforce were ignored and a bloody minded "hit that square peg harder" attitude prevailed...the rest is history.

When you (management) own the communications, its easy to blame "the workers" and try and put your own ideas "out there". Eventually mistrust develops......I suspect these strikes are as much about management attitude as anything else.

As a business consultant I've had contracts terminated after telling senior managers that the system they are imposing won't work or is missing key ingredients to make it tick.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 04:12PM Report Comment

3. happy mondays said...

Does this mean all my xmas cards will be late again ?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 04:41PM Report Comment

4. the number cruncher said...

When people winge about state owned industry and civil service workers being useless footresters it makes me a little angry. There are a lot of very good civil servants, who work hard and do a good job and that goes for posties too.

I, for my sins, sit on a few committees with state funded organisations and local councils etc.. I observe that the power structures often reward those with the ability to suspend logic and force their underlings to do stupid things and perform useless tasks. Most of the motivation seems a pathological fixation with not embarrassing their political masters and to hell with performance, efficiency or serving the public good.

I put the blame on a media that is desperate to seize on any failure or embarrassment, often pandering to the prejudices of vested interests.

We end up with an Orwellian nightmare where politicians repeat the mantra of change, when it is nothing of the sort, and are bedazzled by 'yes men' who tell them about how they are going to reach unreachable targets. Yet the managers who could enact change are hounded from the organisations or never promoted as the risk averse culture stifles any initiative and those risk averse yes men, who cook the books to reach unobtainable targets, are promoted.

My solution would to be create more co-operative and trustee led non-profit organisations to carry out 'state' functions and to stop this stupid mantra of change and false efficiency. We should make the post office more independent and appoint a trustee board of directors with clear terms of reference and real political independence.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 05:14PM Report Comment

5. 51ck-6-51x said...

happy mondays said "Does this mean all my xmas cards will be late again ?"
- not if you use an alternative service.

Strikes are so uncouth!

Market! Market! Market! You want Market!
( As per that Compare The Market ad [ the one with the puppet theatre ]. )

Thursday, October 8, 2009 05:24PM Report Comment

6. 51ck-6-51x said...

^^ unless you mean the ones being sent to you via red mail that is!

Thursday, October 8, 2009 05:27PM Report Comment

7. shipbuilder said...

the number cruncher - absolutely agree, especially with your last paragraph. There are certain functions that make more sense in the public sector, in my opinion, and the key to making them work is independence from political influence. As I've argued many a time on this blog, there is no reason why a non-profit public body could not be run efficiently with the right people and structures in place.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 05:30PM Report Comment

8. icarus said...

Last time there was a postal strike the cheque for my credit card payment was a day late. Cost me a late payment fee and interest. Postal stikes are good for credit card companies.

More seriously, alan and number cruncher @ 2&4 make some good points about management and the media. The strikes by engineering construction workers at oil refineries and power stations earlier this year were characterised by a lot of the media and politicians (including Brown and the Lord of Darkness) as of the xenophobic, "British jobs for British workers" type. In fact the main motivation was to prevent the Nulabour, globalisation, neoliberal race to the bottom, in which union agreements on terms and conditions (pay, welfare, health and safety etc.) were being undercut by contract labour on jobs where contracts were won by bypassing union agreements on these things. On some jobs the foreign contract workers (in one case, housed on a barge in the Humber) were segregated by management from the indigenous workers. The strikers generally blamed government and employers, not foreign workers, for the problems, and in some cases the foreign workers stood by the British ones in their demands that union agreements be honoured. One Guardian journalist claimed that some of the tabloids tried to get strikers to be photographed waving the union jack, and one striker was interviewed by the beeb saying "we can't work alongside of them" (foreign workers) but cut out the rest of his sentence, which continued "because we're segregated from them".

Thursday, October 8, 2009 06:33PM Report Comment

9. 51ck-6-51x said...

shipbuilder said, "There are certain functions that make more sense in the public sector"
- That may well be. Water flows downhill and all that... but a postal service is not really in that category is it? That is there is plenty of mail sent and a free market solution would be competition for area contracts across service providers by the delivery men ( such as has happened in the utility meter reading sector ).

Thursday, October 8, 2009 06:52PM Report Comment

10. shipbuilder said...

51ck-6-51x - I agree, these days Post Office probably isn't one of those core services that makes more sense under public ownership, although how would you see a totally free market solution working for people in more remote areas? Do you think they would be charged more or would they simply not be served? I'm thinking of the tendency for free market solutions (health in the US as an example) to try and avoid serving those who become too expensive, which is part of the reason why public alternatives exist in the first place.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 07:11PM Report Comment

11. shipbuilder said...

In the days when it was generally agreed that the Post Office provided a good service, does anyone know if it was being subsidised by taxpayer's money or did it pay for itself? How much savings or benefit would privatisation really have meant in that case? Just making the point that I don't ever remember anyone claiming that posting a letter was hugely expensive, so is the idea that everyone pays slightly more to ensure 100% coverage really that bad if the slightly more is 1 or 2p on a stamp?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 07:19PM Report Comment

12. Trotters said...

"such as has happened in the utility meter reading sector."

Great - so I'll have to deliver my own post as well as reading my own meters (can't remember the last time anybody else read one). Just why, when virtually every private utility company I deal with provides such abismal service, would I expect the private sector to deliver any kind of improved performance for the customer? When's the Krushchev's speech moment going to arrive for you free-meerkateers?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 07:29PM Report Comment

13. mr g said...

Why does no one criticise the Communication Workers Union?

To any reasonable, rational and logical thinking person, they don't belong in 2009 but 1809, when the original Luddites did have real grounds to fear the future, as this excerpt from Wikipedia shows:

"The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the early nineteenth century who protested—often by destroying mechanized looms—against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their entire way of life.

This English historical movement should be seen in the context of the era's harsh economic climate due to the Napoleonic Wars, and the degrading working conditions in the new textile factories. Since then, however, the term Luddite has been used derisively to describe anyone opposed to technological progress and technological change.

The term "Luddite fallacy" has become a concept in neoclassical economics reflecting the belief that labour-saving technologies (i.e., technologies that increase output-per-worker) increase unemployment by reducing demand for labour. The fallacy lies in assuming that employers will seek to keep production constant by employing a smaller, more productive workforce instead of allowing production to grow while keeping workforce size constant"

I don't see the CWU's members suffering in the same way as the original Luddites. They're simply being misled and used to further the aims of power seeking union leaders as the miners were by Scargill.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 07:29PM Report Comment

14. shipbuilder said...

mr g - when banks or other businesses are criticised on here, I regularly see the opinion expressed - 'they're just doing what they're there to do - making a profit'. Well this is just unions 'doing what they do - protecting their members'. Why criticise one and not the other?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 08:28PM Report Comment

15. mr g said...


In my estimation, banks, the City and a lot of modern business are populated by spivs and parasites (rather like politicians) who have never done a honest day's work in there life and have no understanding of the lives of the majority of the population of this country.

I was a union member myself for a number of years and as a Manufacturing Manager have also dealt with unions on my employer's behalf. In my experience, the majority of union officials are well meaning but are totally ineffective and allow the more militant individuals to take control.

I don't see the CWU acting in it's members interests in this case. At the end of the day Royal Mail will get the changes or lose business so either way there will be job losses plus loss of pay for the strikers. Where's the logic or sense in that?

Thursday, October 8, 2009 08:48PM Report Comment

16. mdmick said...

The trouble with striking, these days, is that someone abroad says not just, "I can do it cheaper!" but "I can do it without my staff striking."
In 180whatever, I think the UK was protecting its industrial methods and trying to stop secrets of how machines work going abroad.

It is a different world now.

So many posts on this forum mention outsourcing or foreign competition for our service sector expertise.

If I was a union boss, I would insist that strikes do not happen around the night of an England soccer game or some other "Let's spoil ourselves" event. They are hanging on by their fingernails and insisting on a manicure.

Thursday, October 8, 2009 08:59PM Report Comment

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