Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Somewhat of a dilemma! Local Government strike on Thursday

I could do with some timely advice, that is for sure

Tomorrow morning is meant to be my surgery at Kensington Library.

Which will be closed because of the strikes

And I am a UNITE member (although my current workplace is not unionised) and I always go on the picket line when my own workplace is called out on strike (as it was twice when I worked at HMRC).

So I support the right of the local government workers to go on strike for better pay and I support their call for better pay too.

However, I also support my constituents who might turn up tomorrow at the library to see me with a problem and I don't want to let them down.

I am thinking of going to the library anyway tomorrow, even though it will be closed. I doubt if there will be a picket line there as it will probably be entirely shut, doors locked, nothing to see here, move along.

And I am thinking of sitting on the step with a newspaper or some paperwork I need to read, just in case anyone turns up.

But is this in the spirit of a strike?

Thoughts please! And you had better be quick because in about 12 hours time I am going to have to decide whether I should be putting my coat on!


Anonymous said...

Hi Louise

Im a union steward with LCC and can say that you certainly would not be breaking the spirit of the strike by attending the Library for your surgery.

impressed that there are some councillors so dedicated!

Paul said...

It was Full Council tonight at West Lancahire Distirct Council, and on Monday the Labour Group had to decide whether to attend and be seen to do the best for the residents of West Lancs by debating hard (though in reality our position of opposition and Try whipped vote means that it is symbolic at Full Counilc stage), or not attend in recognition of staff's right to strike (including those staff who would officiate/support Full Council).

The debate was healthy, but in the end the vote was overwhwelming - DO NOT attend. As group secretary I wrote to the Council Chairman to inform of him of this and to deplore the Tories' intransigence over the possilbity of changing the date.

I think our group's overwhelming vote says much - as a member of party rooted in the union movement, crossing a picket line, real or virtual, is simply something you cannot do whatever the counterbalancing arguments. Union members will also respect you, but more seriously will disrespect you if you do cross. I speak from personal experience of being a strike 'leader' in the the 1980s, long before involvement with the Labour party, when I can honestly say it was very simple - a scab is a scab and there are no exentuating circumstances. you need to look at it from their perspective, as i'm pretty sure this 'bottom line' still holds true.

Your constituents who turn up to your surgery will respect you for standing on the library steps and not crossing, whether or not they support the union's action.

Remember also that there may be people in thje library who might prefer to strike but who think they must stay in order to support the councillor having her surgery. You cannot risk being party to that, however unlikely.

In a word (well three) do not cross.

Paul said...

Ah sorry, just noticed you said the library will be closed anyway - so my last comment was entirely superfluous. Forget it all.....

I can't see a big problem with hanging round the steps really as it's physically not going near a picket line (physical or virtual), though I guess you could ask anyone who turn up if they'd mind meeting you at their home.

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks to Paul and Anonymous.

I think on balance I should go, there will be no picket line and I wont be inside the library, I will be hanging about outside, hoping it does not rain.

I doubt if anyone will turn up to see me anyway, this particular surgery is a brand new one and is not yet in the pysche of the public. But I dont want to leave anyone in the lurch who might have stoked themselves up to come and see me.

So I will be there and if anyone comes they wont be left in difficulty.

And if the library is open, but with a picket line, which it sounds from anonymous as though that will not be the case, I wont hear their issue inside but will, as Paul suggests, either hear it on the step or go home with them for a cup of a coffee and a good old-fashioned chat.

Thank you both very much for crystallising this for me, but I shall check again at 9am in case there are any powerful dissenters for this course of action.

Jimmy Price said...

Stand on the picket line and show your support for the strike

Anonymous said...

There are reasons we have picket lines! Turning up on the steps though would be wrong if there is a picket line - effectively nabbing people before they enter. Imagine doing that outside Municipal Buildings!
If there is no line I think it should be OK. What a quandary!

Louise Baldock said...

I know you are all dying to find out what happened.

I went to the library, expecting it to be shut. It was pouring with rain and I was not looking forward to hanging about outside for an hour, I can tell you.

But it was open!

And there was no picket line.

So I went inside and went up to the counter. "I thought you would be shut" I said, with an almost accusatory tone. "Why are you open? It said in the papers that all the libraries would be shut".

I had not thought to introduce myself either, so the man must have thought I was a bit mad.

Why has this woman come here if she thought we would be shut and why does she seem almost cross that we are open? You could see the bewilderment on his face.

Poor chap.

He said that they were all GMB staff working there and that they were not on strike.

So, I got a book to read and sat down.

And what do you know? Someone came in to see me - one of my regulars, so I am glad I went.

I could easily just have turned over in bed and had another hour this morning. Thinking it was closed and that nobody would expect me to turn up to a closed building.

It was a close thing I can tell you!

Paul said...

Strangely, after I'd commented a couple of times last night on yor blog, I opened my diary to find out what I was doing - and there was a surgery at 2.15pm in the Council's sheltered accommodation!

At least I'd taken the time to rationalise with myself with you in mind, so I turned up at 2.15pm to find the sheltered accommodation warden waiting for me in the community room. As there were already a couple of folk walking over, having just got off the bus whuich stops outside, I thought I'd better do the right thing, so I steadfastly stood outside and talked to them for a bit (it was really just a social call) and then stood outside the door for the rest of the hour. A couple of people came by and were half-amused to see what I was up to, but there wasn't much drama as it's not a very busy surgery anyway... after all people generally know where I am if they want me, and surgeries should really nowadays only be the additional iceing on the cake over and above more immediate forms of communication.

Louise Baldock said...

An interesting irony, n'est ce pas?

Well done you anyway.

(Years ago, when I had the power to do such things, I deselected a sitting councillor, in another authority, who told me that he did not hold surgeries because if people wanted him they knew what pubs to find him in!!)