Those things occuring in America which would lessen the profitability of corporations in the UK, if repeated there, are seldom reported. The crystal ball that America is to what will be repeated in Britain is out of bounds, ignored by both the mainstream media and trade unions, that is, by the echo-chamber of government, and the ‘licensed’ opposition, for British unions are just another part of the repressive aparatus of the State. They and their apologists often state that American politics has no relevance to the UK. Such moronic myopia is not based on basic research, which informs the enquirer that such as the UK’s workfare programme is an almost carbon copy of what was implemented in America, a utterly failed plan that merely succeeded in forcing some of the unemployed into low paid, insecure, zero-hour jobs.
UK unions utterly fail their membership. Danny Richardson and Richard Tyler (wsws.org, November 25, 2014), reported: ‘After 90 days of strike action to defend their wages, Care UK workers are being asked to vote to accept what is in effect up to a 33 percent pay cut. Having cut their pay by up to 35 percent when it took over the contract for the learning disability service from the Labour-run Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, Care UK has offered the workers a miserly 2 percent pay rise … The hard truth the Care UK workers now confront is that Unison, the organisation they turned to seeking support for their struggle, has betrayed them. It cynically reports the impending ballot on its web site, saying, “Our Care UK members in Doncaster must be congratulated on the success of their sustained strike action”. If a 33 percent pay cut is success, one dreads to think what failure would look like’.
It can be added that the leader of the New Labour Party is a Doncaster M.P., who was reported to be very sympathetic to the plight of Care UK workers, but did not respond to those workers’ delegation that asked him to publicly oppose the selling off of public health services to profit-driven companies. It was like asking him to abandon New Labour’s adoration of King Capital. At best, his band of worshipers will only suggest minor tinkerings to court policy. The real shame is that many of the working class have not recognised the banner under which New Labour marches, and their naevity in expecting any meaningful support.
Compare the lamentable UK union response to the American National Labour Relations Board (NLRB), in December, 2014, charging McDonald’s and some of its franchisees with violations of federal labour law. The agency is investigating 78 charges of alleged bad practice. Their decision to treat McDonald’s and its franchisees as joint employers means that McDonald’s workers can now hold their corporate boss accountable.
The importance of this ruling, in workplaces such as nursing home chains, has been franked by a recent American case, in which a company was fined $27 million for poor standards of care in several of its nursing homes. In the UK, at all too frequent coroner’s court hearings, a nursing home manager may be held responsible for poor care, wherehas budgetary restraints imposed by the manager’s company may have contributed to this. If the NLRB’s ruling was applied in the UK, then senior management of a nursing home company would be asked why they were not aware of poor standards, as it is their legal duty to be aware and to enforce good standards. A class action could be brought against the company, and a heavy fine imposed.
To answer why such an approach is unlikely in the UK is to understand the UK’s political elites’ vassalage to King Capital.
Compare the lamentable UK union response to the NLRB making an injunction against the HealthBridge care home chain of Connecticut, forcing them to restore to their employees their old jobs and contract terms. A report by Alexandra Bradbury (labornotes.org, February 22, 2013), states: ‘Some 600 HealthBridge workers in Connecticut will return to work March 3, ending an eight-month strike and lockout against the ferociously anti-union chain of nursing homes … From the start of bargaining two years ago, company negotiators were blunt about their goal: to drive standards in HealthBridge’s five unionized Connecticut nursing homes down to the level of its three non-union homes. That meant eliminating staff-to-patient ratios, reducing wages to $9 an hour (a $5 cut), slashing sick days in half, forcing workers to pay most of their own health care costs, replacing their pension with a 401(k), and cutting the work week to 37.5 hours by eliminating paid lunches.* The company proposed big takeaways from every clause in the contract—except “management rights” … This took place against a background of HealthBridge’s CEO ‘donating $1.25 million a year into a vanity project, the “Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice” at New York University … The nursing home workers and student allies staged creative protests there, and the union (Service Employees International Union), doggedly kept negotiating’. *Policies that will be imposed in the UK under the weasel words of ‘structural reform’, ‘ liberalising labour laws’; that is, the Greece-ification of the UK will allow greater exploitation of workers by corporations.
The NLRB charged the company with illegally failing to bargain in good faith, imposing a one-sided contract, and refusing to reinstate the strikers. HealthBridge continuously appealed against the rulings, a delaying tactic that can take years, so the Labour Board imposed a 10 (j) injunction, which would have immediately put workers back to work while the appeals process continued. HealthBridge appealed against the injunction in the Supreme Court, which upheld the injunction, resulting in 600 workers returning to their original jobs, shift patterns, wage rates, staffing ratios, pension and health care, and lunch time and sick day provision. This is not to paint a too rosy picture of American labour laws, which are generally very supportive of business.
To answer why such a dogged approach by a union is unlikely in the UK is to understand UK unions’ vassalage to King Capital. Their claims of victory are from the pages of Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.
King Capital is seated in a well-defended castle, looking down at the top table of the corporate elite. They, in turn, look down on a table of political hirelings, of all camouflages of dress. Below this grouping, some distance down the hall, away from the glowing fire, sit the union of court minstrels, feeding on lesser fare. One of the minstrels takes a scrap of food, and throws it out of a window onto the courtyard below. Hungry people rush toward it, and, even though expecting more, are forced to feed on it.
The entirety of modern UK labour law is seen here. Even when ferociously anti-union policies are imposed, well-paid union leaders will sink to one knee in subservience, for it is far better to be inside the court of King Capital than to be without it.
The working class may as well have been thrown the contents of King Capital’s chamber pot, and are very poorly served by those all those who play King Capital’s tune.
lenin nightingale 2015