Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Who said the unions were dead?

Interesting stories today on Devil's Kitchen and Iain Dale about trade unions (trains and education respectively). The Bishop has tried to engage in some debate on this with Norfolk Blogger and a new favourite, To Miss with Love. He must also confess to some prejudices here, in part stemming from a (pub) conversation held some years ago with someone who was then working on education policy at the Diocesan Council.

The Bishop, then a lowly priest, was living across the river from Chav-ville, in what Dr Michael Nazir-Ali might call Islam-No-Go-Tiny-Village. On learning where the person in question worked, the Bishop had the temerity to remark that, were he to have children, there would be as much chance of him sending them to a local school as there might be of Gordon Brown coming out as gay and having been in a relationship with Peter Mandelson, with a rocking horse as the third member of the menage-a-trois*. Well, the Bishop was blown away by the venom of the response, which was basically along the lines of, 'You are not doing your social duty if you do not send your children to the local schools: how will those schools ever get better if people like you don't send your kids there?'.

Unfortunately, at that time, the Bishop had not learned that arguing with a lefty is as futile as expecting banks' shareholders, rather than taxpayers, to bear the burden of their employees' mistakes. He suggested that competition and vouchers, as used to help poor blacks, I mean 'African-Americans', in Chicago might help. Or perhaps the reintroduction of grammar schools, combined with properly-resourced secondary moderns and decent vocational qualifications that offered an alternative to academic subjects.

I leave it to you, my dear Reader**, to imagine the reaction...

Amazingly enough, the Bishop escaped with only minor damage (a broken eardrum and a wet patch on his crotch, the latter entirely due to wetting himself laughing :) ).

Anyway... I seem to have gone somewhat off the point. Ahhh, yes... unions.

Well, the Bishop is a member of the Premier Clerical Union, which has 'moderate' Nu-Labour leanings, although it does not make political donations ('render unto Caesar' and all that...). But this is only in case he is brought before a Consistory Court - he has no desire to have his retirement determined by the nationally-mandated age of 75, and is quite happy to negotiate his own pay with the Diocesan Council or, indeed, the Vatican HR Dept. (should Craggy Island give up more of its powers to the latter; there may be some attractions - for the Bishop, although probably not for his flock - from this; the Bishop understands that they pay a decent stipend and are quite happy to increase the tithe to its more traditional 23% level, found in the Old Testament).

So, perhaps those opposed to unions allegedly standing up for them - when in fact they stand up for nonsense such as national wage bargaining, retirement at 33 3/4, a 2-day week, etc. - should set up their own organisation to provide support in employment tribunals, advice on investments and pensions, etc.? And then negotiate their own terms and conditions, with public sector employers copying their private counterparts and paying according to market conditions.

And unions that seek to abuse monopolistic powers (esp. the gits that ruin the Bishop's daily commute in Gotham) should be subject to the same anti-monopoly laws faced by businesses. Even France requires that transport unions provide some service when on strike - if the cheese-eating surrender monkeys can manage it, surely so can Craggy Island!

*which is, of course, a ridiculous idea.

** My apologies for the assumption that anyone is actually reading my rants. This is really just a space for me to vent my spleen of the frustrations built up from my daily work Ministering in Gotham.

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