Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Which side on your own?

There's been a discussion at Span's about the difference between a strike and a lock-out. John Campbell asked Laila Harre the same question on Monday - why is it worse now that the company has locked-out workers than when the workers were on strike.

I don't think you can answer that question if you think that relationships between bosses and workers are neutral matters. If you think that it's possible to stand outside an industrial struggle and weigh up the merits of each side as if you are God, then I guess you'd see a strike and a lock-out as essentially the same things.

I don't think it works like that - I think you have to choose sides. I think there's a difference between a strike and a lock-out because I am on the workers side - and a lock-out is a companies attempt to starve the workers out. I care about people trying to feed their kids, I don't care about shareholders getting a smaller dividend.

I don't understand how anyone could think any differently (unless they were one of the shareholders - in which case they've chosen their side as well).

1 comment:

  1. I guess the assumption is (and not a completely unreasonable one) that

    1a) workers dont save money (and thus being out of work for a while means they might starve) AND
    1b) can't find new jobs quickly,

    2)while shareholders do save (ie saying that an investor PROBABLY only invests spare money and probably doesnt borrow to do it, although he could) AND
    2b) that companies themselves tend to have considerable savings with which to absorb loses (ie your strike isn't going to seriously hurt the company and result in everyone loosing by reducing the availability of jobs).

    If that is the case then maybe that dynamic needs to be challenged more directly.

    I think companies in addition massively underestimate the cost of replacing workers usually (so they take more agressive stands than they rationally should) and that workrs overestimate the problems of finding a new job (weakening their bargaining position) as well as feeling some loyalty to a company that doesnt feel that way towards them and from the points above generally not saving or being a very active job searcher and thus being "outsmarted" in that regard (ie you should ALWAYS be looking for a new job - that way there is constant pressure on the employer to keep your wage at a market level).