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Petrol strikes: idiotic and irresponsible

5 Mins

So here we are again. Just as some of us thought there might be a few tentative green shoots of optimism appearing, the country is in chaos, with panic buying at the pumps and the possibilities of tanker strikes looming. And as usual, who do we have to thank for it? The old culprits: our rabble rousing unions with their own agendas, a carless mouthed minister and some incendiary press.

Unite (the union in question) actually represents around 2,000 drivers in seven distribution companies – although two of these, DHL and Suckling, voted firmly against the strikes. Take away those who voted against plus those who did not vote, that leaves a very small group of people holding the country to ransom.

They say that this is not about money – not entirely accurate as one of the key issues is pension scheme swapping. They then hold forth that it is no longer acceptable that oil giants rake in profits… sounds suspiciously like money again to me. They also highlight growing instability in the oil industry, welcome to the real world Ms Holland where we are all aware that oil supplies are running dry. It does affect us all. All our futures are unsure for a mix of economic reasons and exactly how are you helping?

Mixed in with their strike action announcements you will find their rants on what they call George Osborne’s “rich man’s” budget, saying it was a Budget drawn up by a Cabinet of millionaires for millionaires. Questionable accuracy. They hold forth about how the poor will suffer and demand action for growth and jobs. Five days after this particular action, the vote for action came in.

Because, as usual, the unions fail to look at who they will really hurt with this action – profits of the oil companies perhaps. However, the real victims with be the individuals of this country should the strikes go ahead. There would be the emotional hardships, the simple everyday tales of people unable to carry on their normal lives, perhaps to see their families over Easter, the missed but vital hospital appointments.  

Economically, however, it will hit every business with staff unable to get to work, goods being unable to be delivered. To say this could be the final nail in the coffin for many a small or medium sized business over Britain, already recession beleaguered and low resourced, would not be a hysterical judgement. And the result from that, of course, would be more unemployed, more suffering to exactly those the union claims to protect. 

Meanwhile, we have the other end of the idiocy. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude happily suggested that drivers should fill up any spare jerry cans with petrol and keep them in garages. This has been subsequently acknowledged by others in the cabinet as just a teensy weensy error given the risk of explosions if we all go around storing quantities of petrol in our homes. The excuse given – poor Mr. Maude didn’t understand the size of a jerry can. The result has also been immediate shortages, panic buying and opportunist rises. 

The tabloids, of course, have been quick to fan flames on both sides. They encourage the tales of misery while making little of the supposedly genuine hopes on both sides that ACAS will be able to negotiate a peaceful solution and action be avoided – that little morsel gets barely a mention.  

These are the people we vote to power in various directions. They need to join the real world. Cabinet ministers who make idiotic remarks with dangerous consequences should resign. Unions need to learn economics and care about this country enough to behave in a responsible manner and stay at the negotiating tables without blackmailing the rest of us. Let’s hope they will.

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