Friday, 17 March 2017

Apparently breaking the law

is justified if the law is "unjust" - or so the new trade union leader in Downunder would have people believe.
 As a teacher the Senior Cat always believed, and still believes, going out on strike should be a weapon of last resort. While teachers are "in loco parentis" - that is, in place of the parents of the children they are teaching - they should not remove their services and put the children at risk. I agree. In fact in the area in which I worked going out on strike was not to be contemplated. Everyone I worked with agreed that there was just one reason we would go out on strike and that was if not to do so would put the lives of the children we were teaching at immediate risk. Of course that was never likely to happen. There was a strike at one point. We all went to work. So did the teachers in the Senior Cat's school - and in many other schools. The few militants who had tried to call it found they had to look for other ways to negotiate the problem which had arisen. 
But the new head of the union movement clearly feels differently. There are rules about striking, about who can strike and when they can do it. She says they are there for breaking if she deems it necessary.
It's a confrontational approach and I am not sure it is a very wise approach. Her argument is that it is about "safety". Really?
Occupational Health and Safety is a big issue now, so big that the local charity shop was closed for the morning a couple of weeks back. It was closed so that the mostly very elderly staff who have been working there for years could have compulsory occupational health and safety training. I heard about it later. The person who came along to talk to them was reminding them of things like washing their hands before eating morning tea.
      "I could have told her a thing or two. I turned 90 last year and my fingernails were cleaner than hers!" one of the women told me. I rather suspect the "bright young thing" got their backs up.They had been ready to listen in case they were doing something wrong, something that might harm a customer but that wasn't what they were told about.
And then I wonder about the way in which it is always the employers' fault when an accident occurs. Yes, of course that happens because the employer is the one who is insured, the one who has the capacity to pay for the injury. It doesn't however take into account the worker who doesn't put on the relevant safety goggles or gloves or harness or something else. It  doesn't take into account the worker who deliberately takes a risky shortcut or fails to follow an instruction because he or she believes there is a better way to do something. What is more it doesn't ask people to take responsibility for their own actions.
When a worker deliberately disregards the safety regulations it isn't a matter of working conditions. It is a matter of obedience.  Should you go out on strike because someone was disobedient?



hd said...

A strike is a method of legal civil action taken on by certain groups when all other methods of negotiation fail.

I guess I don't understand why this would put children at risk. Bottom line, care of those children is the parents responsibility when school is not in session. School is not in lieu of child minders. If the teachers strike, the parents will become involved, if for no reason than the inconvenience of having their day disrupted.

But it is not a health and safety issue for the children. They "should" be safe at home. Certainly we don't worry on weekends and school holidays...

Anonymous said...

There are times when it is not legal to strike here and reasons for which it is not legal to strike (e.g. secondary boycott rule.) Parents have to be given notice of a strike by teachers - and schools still have to cover for any child who does turn up.
Where Cat was teaching it would have put the children at serious risk