The UK is now approaching mass strike action, which feels a lot like a General Strike. It’s not, but only because the various groups going on strike all have individual reasons for striking, which arguably is a lot worse than the concept of striking in solidarity with their fellow workers. It’s likely to be a miserable season for many of us, but it is vital that we do not fall into the trap of blaming the unions entirely for this – their job is to negotiate on behalf of their members, and in many case the government has refused or blocked such negotiations.
Calendar of strikes, courtesy of the BBC
It is important to remember that these workers want to work, because when they don’t work they don’t get paid. As such, it isn’t the case that they relish the opportunity to take some time off work, instead this is simply a way to remind those in charge how important they truly are. It’s fair to say that the workforces shown in the chart above are part of the lifeblood of the UK, both the economy and the society in general.
We are regularly told that the UK cannot afford to give these people well-deserved pay rises to match the cost of living, but this is a lie. We as a country found more than enough money to waste on a Test and Trace system that was utterly unfit for purpose. We had enough money to hand thousands of PPE contracts to firms with no track records but with strong connections to Tory politicians. In short, we seem to be able to find the money any time the Conservatives decide they want to splash out some cash to benefit themselves or their mates, but as soon as it comes to paying those that keep us going – literally – it seems the magic money tree withers and dies.
Remember that the UK has about £15tn of combined wealth. We are one of the richest countries in the world, and can apparently afford to waste some £70bn on stupid or selfish projects, so what would paying, for example, nurses cost?
According to the Mirror, a 1% pay rise across the board for nurses would cost £700 million. As such, a 15% pay rise would cost the country £10.5bn – only a fraction of the money that has been wasted by Tory mismanagement.
As an alternative, and one that might be easier to implement and fairer on everyone, it’s worth looking at my article on Universal Basic Income, which is a proposal designed to lift most income at the “cost” of fairly taxing capital gains and inheritances.