Tristram Hunt, strikebreaker

February 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

With ongoing strike actions at UK universities there are a few articles going round on the interweb which – in my view – offer a helpful beginners’ guide to what a strike is and what a picket line is, something much-needed in this day and age where so many people are politically illiterate and probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a union and a nutty relative. Two such articles come from the Cambridge comrades (see here and here). Another, which I’ve just stumbled across, puts Tristram Hunt MP in his place for crossing a picket line with the excuse that

“I support the right to strike for those who have balloted to picket.”

“I have chosen not to join the strike. My personal commitment remains to the students I am lecturing.”

Really, Tristram?

A friend who shared this on facebook expressed the wish that her union could be more imaginative in its industrial action than just conducting strikes. Her comment made me recall a distinction someone once suggested to me between those who see the union as an institution that exists to provide services for its members and those who see the union as the means by which they can negotiate just working conditions. What I would say to this friend is this: if you want your union to be more imaginative, make it more imaginative. It’s your union.

We don’t just need articles explaining what a strike is and what a picket line is. We need articles explaining what a union is.

(Having said this – I acknowledge that another aspect of this day and this age is that many people have so many demands on their time already that they cannot also commit the time needed to get actively involved in their union beyond participating in strikes.)

Hey ho, on with the show.

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