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Strike while the iron is hot

Better pay? Surely it should be better conditions?

I had a great idea these past few weeks as I watched every craft group in this indebted little country threaten to strike over pay increases. I proposed that there should be a national day of striking. We should ALL go on strike, on one day. The same day. This has many advantages. We would all be in it together and the sense of national collective collegiality would be massive. None would suffer because everyone would suffer. No-one would be discommoded because everyone would be equally inconvenienced. Like Christmas Day, we could all stay safely indoors.

Who needs shops when you have prepared for Christmas Day by buying the stuff beforehand? Except for batteries. They are very urgently needed for modern toys! Who needs the gardaí when even the robbers are inside by the fire? Except for one poor robber who got stuck in the chimney and was found dead, killed by fumes when a fire was started, accidently, by the owner. That reminds me that an undertaker is another important person, who should not be allowed go on strike. We need undertakers for people who die without warning and without making an appointment to die.

I have never heard of an undertaker going on strike. Ever. Is that because they have good pay and conditions? Or is it because undertakers are private enterprises rather than public servants? Competition and capitalism. Insecurity. Maybe that is the reason undertakers never go on strike. In fact, some strikes can lead to extra business for undertakers, due to the deaths and violence of some strikes. Think of the lock-out of 1913. Workers fighting for their right to be part of a bargaining trade union.

Or are these extra injuries and deaths during strikes the result of the people actually going on strike — like the gardaí, or doctors or nurses? Are they responsible for the deaths? Would more people live if the guards were not on strike? Less crime? Less robbery. The deterrent factor of bail and suspended sentences isn’t working. People do not feel safe anyway, so will a Garda strike make any difference to them?

Why don’t repeat convictions give criminals a holiday in prison, rather than in Spain, on social welfare? The more bad points these people get for, say, 98 previous violent robbery convictions, the less likely it is that they actually get time in these resorts of last resort — prison. This seems odd. A GP might get only five penalty points for insulting a patient and might then get a suspended sentence, say, of two years where their actual practice is suspended and their reputation is dragged through the Medical Council and the media for two years.

I suppose if more doctors were to insult people, then the courts would get used to it and there would be more credit given for, say, 98 previous convictions by a doctor of insulting patients. Because by this stage, everyone would know that doctors have human rights too and so we would, as a society, at last realise that they deserve leniency and compassion and fair play too. Doctors could have suspended sentences for good behaviour. But we all know that doctors are pillars of society, so they need to be brought down and made an example of. Meanwhile, repeat offenders and violent criminals have human rights and must be let free. So will a Garda strike make any difference?

If we had that unified national day of strike action, then the really important things would become obvious. Urgent and important things. Electricity and gas are very important for heating, cooking and lighting. So these workers would have to get their pay and conditions. Firemen are very important when the house goes on fire from the chimney going up in smoke. So they would have to get their pay and conditions.

And even though they never go on strike, we would have to give better pay and conditions to the undertakers, because their work is very important. But first we should pay the doctors and nurses in casualty. They should be given better pay and better conditions, because they have to leave their family on special days and tend to dying chimney-robbers. This work is urgent and important and cannot be put off for another day. All these jobs are essential to a functioning democracy.

Every strike risks the fact that people might notice that they can survive, very well, thank you very much, without the police, without the Government and without the teachers. Or at least they might notice that a lot of what many workers do these days under the mirage of ‘useful work’ is in fact meaningless paper bureaucracy and bullying, and that less and less actual good is being done. We have to police our own homes anyway. We have to pay for grinds to get ahead anyway. We have to pay for private health anyway. We have to demonstrate on the streets, although we have elected a Government anyway. We are forced to pay for the services that we don’t get, and then we pay again to get them in the real world. Don’t mention water.

So if workers ask for more pay because of the insane nature of some of their conditions and wasteful practices, I can understand. But I suspect that better conditions and more meaningful work would go a long way to assuage the need for more pay. Pay increases will cost us all more than is necessary to bring this little country crumbling down.

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