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Strike out

5 November 2010

9:09 AM

5 November 2010

9:09 AM

Spark up those Roman candles, the firefighters have called off their strike for today
and tomorrow. According to the general
secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), it’s all because "we’ve listened to the concerns about public safety and we were extremely concerned about the capabilities of the private
contractors being brought in to cover our strike" – which is awfully thoughtful of them, considering that they previously stoked those "concerns about public safety" by
threatening to strike over Bonfire Night. Oh, and they appear to have won some concessions too: the London Fire Brigade will no longer sack any firefighters who refuse to accept contracts that
include the disputed shift system. The whole affair will now go before an independent panel on 16 November, and recommendations will be made for a lasting resolution.

This morning is not completely free from industrial action, though, with a journalists’ strike that has silenced the
Today programme
among other BBC productions. And David Davis has taken the opportunity to call for tougher strike laws. His argument: that "when workers in a public monopoly go on strike,
the only victims are the customers and the taxpayer. Indeed, making the customer suffer has become the primary tactic of the modern strike leader." And his solution: "The best approach is
that employed by several states in the U.S.. They do not allow some categories of public service workers to strike, but instead disputes are resolved by what is known as ‘pendulum
arbitration’." Read his piece for a full, and quite persuasive,
explanation.

As it happens, the government’s official position is that it has "no plans to change strike legislation" – but it has certainly discussed the prospect in recent months. Any more FBU style brinkmanship from the union
leaders, and the case for some changes will no doubt solidify.


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