Sunday, 27 April 2008

Workers Of The World Unite

In 2003, after years of complaining about the lack of a decent water supply to their homes, the women of the Turkish village of Sirt went on a sex strike. Within days the local council granted emergency planning permission and work on a new pipeline began.
The thought of men not having any sex leads obviously to our Labour Government and Gordon Brown in particular who's wife may or may not be still leading him gently by the hand to the bedroom but the only spanking the Prime Minister is getting these days is from his angry workers.
The men at the Grangemouth oil refinery may not be able to withold conjugal rights to the Scotsman but they can withdraw their labour which is what they have done as yet another industry mans the picket lines and tells Gordy to get his well padded derriere into gear and sort out a decent pension plan for them.
The Oil workers follow hard on the heels of the Prison Workers, Teachers, Civil Servants, Fire Brigade, Rail staff, Judges, Postal staff and Police force who have all stayed away from work at some point in the last 12 months protesting against pay increases, or lack of them.
The Government announced a below-inflation pay rise of 2.5% for public-sector workers last year and then squirmed uncomfortably when the MLA panel, who recommend politicians pay, set their pay increase at 16%. Oops.
The closure of the Grangemouth plant will soon begin to be felt at petrol stations as it delivers around 40% of Britain's daily output and outlets are already limiting customers to a maximum of £20 per purchase although key workers such as nurses and the police are allowed to continue filling their vehicles as usual.
I am all for workers going on strike when they think they are getting shafted, we have very little power except the withholding of our labour and it really does focus the minds of those who control the purse-strings.
Shamefully, the Marx quote about workers of the world having nothing to lose but their chains is as pertinent today as it was when the German stopped combing his beard long enough to write it over 150 years ago.

2 comments:

Noah "Nog" M. said...

Lucy,
"Workers" (in the loaded sense used here) can do a lot of things. They can find better employers. They can start their own businesses including ones that compete against their former bosses. They can retire early.

But wait a second, when there's no
competition for labor I guess you'd
be right in saying the only things the workers can do is quit. But the government is the only institution that could possibly stack the labor market so firmly against the "workers".

I'm not that up on the specifics of British politics but I'm of the understanding that there are a lot of government run or controlled industries. In the open sector there are lots of different employers competing for employees but in the government sector there's only one group hiring.


And it's worth mentioning that business administrators and entrepreneurs don't ultimately have any control over (real) wage rates. Wage rates are determined by the consumers on the open market. Businesses are price takers.

-Here's a bit of a more technical explanation. Value is subjective. Marx based his theories on the labor theory of value which has been refuted for over a hundred and twenty years. The labor theory of value is to the economic science as the flat earth theory is to the science of navigation.

So, again, the value of things, insofar as the social sciences are concerned (theologians may argue over divine value if they wish), is determined by individual preferences. If an individual values "car gas" at "X", that individual would never purchase car gas at any price above X even if there was no gas available below that price.
If a producer spends "$100" to produce a liter of gas that a consumer values at $80 or less the producer must take the loss and either sell the gas for a loss, use it himself, or pay to store it.
And if this producer spends $10 on raw materials and $90 on paying a man $15 an hour for 6 hours the employer must, after learning of his folly, either cut costs or go out of business. This means that the "worker" is either fired or forced by the consumer to take a pay cut.

If the government were to pass a minimum wage law of $15 the gas simply wouldn't be made until technology allowed it to be produced at a lower cost.

Businesses and their employees are at the mercy of the consumers. And the consumers happen to be workers themselves.

-A final point is that it is less sensible to look at things from a producer's perspective than a consumer's perspective. The producer wants to do nothing and get payed everything. The consumer wants everything and wants it to cost nothing.

It is the consumer's perspective, then, that presses progress forward.

Q.E.D.

-Nog

Lucy said...

Re-read the 4th paragraph nog. That's why workers get angry.