The discussion got on to the subject of striking and specifcally the "right to strike". Thatcher was cast as pure evil whilst the workers were cast as angels collectively bargaining by withdrawing their labour. For this lecturer the 1970s and the manner in which the system was collapsed by the Unions was actually a good thing, the bad thing for him was that Thatcher took on the Unions and reformed the ability of people to strike at a whim, and even worse, had brought about an end to secondary action.
Our discussion ended up being an argument because I upset him, and some of the other students somewhat. You see I sat there and said, yes, you can have the right to strike, but only so long as it is accompanied by the employers right to fire. After all, the business of business, is business. Now that doesn't mean that an employer should always fire, but if they want to they should have the right and they should not be villified for doing so. After all, if your workforce ups and leaves because you're not paying them enough, then the obvious thing to do is to go out and find a woirkforce that will work for that money happily.
This is why I don't agree with my good friend, Peter Whittle from the New Culture Forum when he argues that we should support the opil refinaries strikes. I certainly could never support secondary action, and as I said in a Tweet on Friday, those taking secondary action should be fired in my view, and the law on this matter should certainly be enforced. It is illegal to strike in sympathy at other strikers elsewhere, and quite right too.
I do not agree that we have an underclass of under-trained Brits out there because we have free movement of Labour and get foreign workers to do the jobs cheaper. The problem we have in Britain is that we have an underclass of under-trained Brits who are so because they have been made so by becoming clients of a welfare state that encourages them to sit on their arses. Then we have the younger generation being told they are geniuses by an education system that has lowered the bar for excellence, with the consequent attitude that certain jobs are too low for them to go for.
The bottom line of these strikes is that the workforce of the Italian company that Total chose after tendering are being paid like for like against British counterparts. That means that when you add in the extra expense of accomodating this workforce, and transporting them, the deal will inevitably cost Total more. This makes their argument that the Italian company won the contract because they were best placed in sills terms to carry out the work a powerful one. Why would a business go for the less skilled cheaper option, than get the job done right?
Of course, politically speaking it is amusing that Gordon Brown's own words have come back to haunt him. However, that does not mean the striking workforce have a strong arguyment because they don't. There is nothing wrong with businesses using foreign workers. If it wasn't for foriegn workers this country would be a very dirty and smelly place. It is the foreign workers that clean our offices, it is the foriegn workers that sweep our streets, it is the foreign workers that serve us coffee in Starbucks, and you know what, I'm glad they do. They are providing a service and taking jobs that Brits won't - why should they when they get handouts constantly from the state?
One of the keys planks of Labour in Opposition prior to 1997, and then in the first few years, was a mantra called "making work pay". It was led by Frank Field and wanted to end the idiotic situation whereby people earned more on beneifts than they could working. It never came about because it was blocked by the Chancellor, now the Prime Minister. This has led to
And please, don't lets start talking about how its impossible to live on the money that these lower jobs get. Foreign workers do it, they even send some of it home, fair play to them I say. They're the ones willing to take on the night shift security roles, the office catering jobs, the office toilet cleaning jobs, and they have no shame in doing so because they have strong work ethics. Compared to the lazy Brit stuck in welfarism who says "I;m not cleaning toilets" they are worth more as a citizen in my view.
You do not need a policy that says "British workers should get a preference" because the British worker isn't working half the time, or even applying for these jobs. What you need a welfare system that makes sure that whilst you can live, it is not a very nice existance, and therefore makes getting a job, whatever it might be, a desirable option. Do that and there won't be any jobs for foreigners and they won;t bloody come here looking.
The Wlefare State should be a safety net from destitution, it should not be a means of existance. It should not be something that you can remain on for life quite happily. British jobs for British workers cannot be brought about by positive deiscrimination and labour market manipulation if the target group can't be arsed to work because they'll lose benefits worth more. I know HR people in high street stores who have seen staff turn down extra hours because they will lose more in benefits than they can earn in overtime. That is the real problem, not because some Polish person is "coming over here and stealing our jobs".