Another strike, another opportunity for the media to completely misrepresent the situation! Some facts desperately need clearing up.
Lets get this out of the way first - I hate strikes.
I'm not one of these people that glories in militancy and itch to kick off and take a day off. When a strike happens, regardless of anything, it is a sign of a failure with industrial relations between the bosses and the workers. I'm pro-business (not in the Tory way I hasten to add) and no business will be sustainable and moral if it is unable to keep a team of people together who are capable of getting on together without resentment.
I don't want there to be problems at work. Problems at work can ruin lives. Whether it is bullying from co-workers, discrimination, or fear of losing that job, all these little things can make life unbearable for ordinary working people. I want everyone to be able to go to work, get on with everyone and be treated fairly, with dignity and able to put all their effort into working hard and getting their job done.
But what I hate more than strikes is when people in high places think they can take their workers for granted, treat them like dirt and walk all over them. When that happens, working people absolutely have to be prepared to stand up for themselves. In that circumstance, going on strike is the lesser evil and we should support them if they are a last resort and if all negotiations have failed.
Withdrawing ones labour is a fundamental human right. The moment that right is lost, we lose our freedom, because it's a green light for those in positions of power to start asking for more from their workers whilst giving them less, and we would be able to do nothing about it. That would start a race to the bottom for working conditions and we would all suffer as a result.
The fact that a group of workers can organise themselves and refuse to work gives them a bargaining power that without, they would be powerless to do anything at work. And what sort of democracy would we be if we left workers powerless to do anything to affect such an important part of their lives?
But what have the unions ever done for us?!
*Warning - contains strong language*
So let's look at exactly what is being said about this particular case in Jersey and what the truth actually is.
Despite misleading articles and an irrelevant fixation, this strike has absolutely nothing to do with pay, or technically even the hours they are allowed to work.
What it is to do with is the fact a promise was broken. Simple enough.
When a company is sold on to another, or, as in this case, a service provider is tendered out, it can be a ridiculously stressful time for the workers. They can be kept out of the know, not be a part of the negotiations and end up not even knowing whether they will still have a job by the end of it all.
But here, the workers, represented by their trade union Unite (which is also my union, which I totally recommend joining, it's far better than my utterly useless NUS membership...) negotiated with the Transport and Technical Services department to get assurances that whichever company won the tender, the workers could all keep their jobs and their current conditions, as they were. TTS agreed.
The arrangement for the transfer was to be the same as that provided in the Transfer Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. So it was pretty clear what had to be done.
But what has kicked off this strike is the realisation that actually no such transfer has been properly arranged. TTS says it is because Connex and Unite didn't provide them with the documentation necessary, though they both claim that all of the information was provided initially for the tender information. I'm more inclined to believe Connex because their point of view makes much more sense.
If one business made a promise to another business and then broke it, they would get sued for breach of contract. How is the Connex workers going on strike any different?
The workers (I say workers, because it's all Connex workers, not just the bus drivers), are now being offered contracts that are different from the ones they currently have. This is the real point. This is not what they were promised. They were promised that their jobs were all guaranteed and things would stay as they are. You can argue over whether that's right or not, but it's an irrelevant argument, because it's not what was agreed.
Making then breaking promises is a poor way to conduct business. If TTS had no intention of securing a TUPE style transfer, then they should never have undertaken that commitment, and now their palming off the blame on others is just pathetic.
There's all sorts of nonsense in the media about them being able to work 70 hours a week (that's 10 hours a day, think it through for goodness sake...). No one works 70 hours a week. Now, there may well be some health and safety issues for people driving for long hours, but that is a matter for statute to correct because no limits also apply to taxi drivers, coach drivers or drivers down at the harbour.
There is also talk about how the strike is technically illegal. True, you need to give 7 days notice for a strike. Problem there is that CTP were giving them until 12th October to accept their new contracts. So they physically didn't have enough time to give them notice. CTP had promised to meet workers representatives this weekend, but didn't. It's a dirty tactic to give a deadline like that and not allow enough time for negotiation and consultation so resolve the dispute. Striking is a last option.
But hey, if Churchill had had to give Hitler 7 days notice he was sending some Spitfires round, we probably wouldn't have won the second world war!
This may technically give Connex the right to sack the strikers. But they won't because it would be impossible to sack the entire work force, and they can't sack a section of them because there is no way of fairly distinguishing a group for sacking that wouldn't be considered unfairly discriminatory.
Of course, it really is a huge shame that this has to affect so many others in Jersey. The OAPs who can't get out and about without the buses. The kids who have real trouble getting to school. It really is a shame, but how could anyone expect to put aside their livelihood for others in that way? There comes a point where they just have to do what is best for themselves. I spend half the year in London where we regularly have public transport strikes, and we just get on with our day and find another way to get where we need to be. The price of riding your bike for a few days is worth paying if it means we live in a fairer society in which bosses aren't allowed to get away with breaking agreements with their workers.
When will working people realise that the reason they so often get such a rough deal is because they are tricked into fighting each other instead of fighting those above them?
I hope the strike is resolved as quickly as possible, and frankly, I think the TTS Minister should be ready to tender his resignation for doing such a poor and shambolic job over all this.
Finally, I just wanted to share a comment from our esteemed former Senator Jim Perchard who posted on the BBCs facebook page this comment earlier -
Of course I could spend hours dismantling this fascistic nonsense, but instead I'll just point out the comment my best friend James (a guy who I have huge admiration for and whose blunt way of putting a point across can instantly have me in fits of laughter) left him. The comment was "Hey Jim, I suppose you think all the bus drivers should just go top themselves, right?". Priceless!