‘To dear friend, UK Premier, Theresa May, I ask this Christmas of discontent – whether going forward, strikes will continue to be part and parcel of the UK landscape or, will we see a more patriotic, caring, intelligent, humane and accordingly to current times and age approach, of settling disputes without causing economic and social turmoil, financial loss, anger, anxiety and hurt among the largely innocent populace by strikes?” Dr Jacob George
APEC/ASEAN LEAD CONSUMERIST & LAWYER DR JACOB GEORGE – STRIKES NOT THE SILVER BULLET IN ADDRESSING DISPUTES IN THE WORK PLACE!
Strikes in wherever, are becoming more and more common and this affects not only the sitting government credibility, local economy but, businesses, employees and consumers alike.
It is a pity that despite advancements made in labor laws, on mitigation, open door policies between employers and employees, collaboration, from the 60s, we still have a portion of those in a time warp, calling for strikes and crippling and victimizing innocents who actually keep these service sectors afloat!
As far as I am concerned, these are self-servers, economic and social terrorists, who threaten not only the hands that feed them, but the population that finances the said industry!
They forget that there is a better way in addressing these issues rather than using the strike as a threat and blackmail tool!
Have we forgotten that employment relationships between employer and employee the world over today is in a better footing than during the 30s to 60s!
And strikes when pushed through, creates collateral damage in working relationships, as the unilateral decision to call for strikes could become strained and this could affect teamwork and profitability.
We cannot deny that due to these actions, businesses suffer production and financial losses and consumer confidence is adversely affected.
Whether a strike is legal or Illegal, the business is affected and it is imperative for employers to know their rights and to keep up to date with current labor laws and legislation.
At critical services sectors, I have always encouraged that businesses opt to hire workers to replace the striking employees and perhaps increase shifts if the strike continues for a long period of time.
It is very important that these part time/temporary workers have a contract by law.
And I strongly also put it that the employer does not have to remunerate striking workers for days not worked.
And if the strike is illegal this could constitute as a fair dismissal.
However, striking employees that belong to a union are under obligation to strike when the union determines.
But in all fairness, they could be at risk of losing not only wages but benefits such as medical aid insurance, sick and holiday pay if the strike drags on for an extended period of time.
If an employee is a union member and does not want to partake in the strike, he/she could be at risk of intimidated by members of the union.
This is where the government needs to intervene and help workers who do not want to strike!
Members belonging to a union in a legal strike are generally protected from dismissal but it is also time that governments initiate legislation to make strikes, a remnant of communism illegal!
It is a sheer pity that those advocating strikes without adequate consultation, mitigation, interaction, analyzing its effects on a nation are fast increasing in number even in this age and time!
The effects of striking will be felt in the immediate and long term future as strikes are appearing to re-occur in some sectors and in some cases have become violent or have possibility of turning violent if those being affect take the law into their own hands out of sheer anger, frustration and anxiety!
The last time I checked, the UK economy is vulnerable at this point in time, post Brexit and this striking season could harm the country’s investment reputation and image further internationally.
I am not alone here as my colleagues who are economists, agree that the effect of strikes on the economy are difficult to calculate but, is detrimental to the country, the innocent consumers and its workers.
We canny deny that the GDP growth will be affected and the consequences of higher wages in certain sectors would inevitably lead to higher inflation.
As I write this blog piece sitting in my family home in the UK, I am told to expect further strikes on the 23 December from over calculated and heartless, 4000 over British Airways staff, the Postal Service and with the ongoing strike by the Southern Railway, this Christmas will become a nightmare for locals and international travelers!
It is a pity, that we do not have a leader like the late Singapore Prime Minister, Uncle Lee Kuan Yew, whom I loved and admired all my life, especially while being trained at law school in the UK!
I remember his warnings to the then striking Singapore Airlines union that immediately forced a turnabout in their thinking and all went then well!
To dear friend, UK Premier, Theresa May, I ask this Christmas of discontent – whether going forward, strikes will continue to be part and parcel of the UK landscape or, will we see a more patriotic, caring, intelligent, humane and accordingly to current times and age approach, of settling disputes without causing economic and social turmoil, financial loss, anger, anxiety and hurt among the largely innocent populace by strikes?