Qualified majorities

The new Conservative government has announced plans to make strikes by public-sector unions more difficult, including

A strike affecting essential public services will need the backing of 40% of eligible union members under government plans.

Currently, a strike is valid if backed by a majority of those balloted.

There will also need to be a minimum 50% turnout in strike ballots.

The new Business Secretary Sajid Javid said “What people are fed up of is strike action that hasn’t been properly supported by the members of the relevant union.” It is notable that this complaint comes from a government that received less than 37% of the votes in the last election, accounting for less than 25% of eligible voters.

“Institutions of Higher Perspiration”

“They don’t want to turn the universities into sweatshops. They’ll be institutions of higher perspiration.”

That was my conclusion about the trajectory to which our managerial overlords aspire, as I was trying to convince a colleague that he should support the UCU, the British academics union, and its escalating strike action. I walked the picket lines for the first time on Thursday, during our two-hour strike. There were about 20 of us there, and only a few were senior academics, which is somewhat disheartening. There were almost as many reporters as strikers, so I got to talk to    all of them. Their questions were interesting:

  1. Why do you think you deserve more pay, in this time of wage restraint? Other workers aren’t getting raises. I think they should join unions and demand higher wages too. It’s not a law of nature that we have “wage restraint” for everyone but the CEOs and fat-cat bankers. It’s a reflection of political decisions and power imbalance, and the effect of words like “time of wage restraint”. Continue reading ““Institutions of Higher Perspiration””