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Not union bashing, but ...

This newspaper believes fervently in the need for unions.

There needs to be protection against exploitation, there needs to be an organised movement that is vociferous in campaigning for fair pay, equal rights and safety, among many other things.

But there also needs to be commonsense and it did not seem to this newspaper that commonsense was much in evidence when the dock workers walked out this week.

The dispute was sent to arbitration last year by the previous Government and when it became clear that Stevedoring Services Ltd (SSL) was going ahead with layoffs they sought an injunction — which was successfully appealed by SSL. It has again been sent for arbitration.

This newspaper wonders whether knowing the intent was to send the dispute to arbitration, SSL deserves some censure for the way it acted, although they will say it was in the interests of the business.

Strikes are the ultimate weapon in a union’s arsenal and should also be a last resort. Wildcat walkouts, sick outs or sudden downing of tools are no longer viewed as acceptable. There is too much at stake.

At a press conference this week BIU President Chris Furbert said: “This might be the tip of the iceberg, I’m going to say might be.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. What I try to do for my members is do what we need to do on a daily basis and then try to think about what may happen tomorrow.

“But we don’t have a crystal ball to predict what’s going to happen so we have to just take one day at a time and do what we have to do on behalf of our members.”

In this instance the action had a direct affect on employees at Butterfield and Vallis and if it had gone on longer it would have hit shops across the Island, and then the consumer.

It is not the economic climate in which to take such action. A different course should have been steered to solve the dispute.

Protection of union members’ rights must be upheld, but that must be done in a way that does not affect the rights of others and unions have an obligation, currently, to think about what might happen tomorrow.

The container ship the Oleander waits to be offloaded.

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Published January 09, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 08, 2013 at 7:42 pm)

Not union bashing, but ...

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