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Unions, Unions, Unions…

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

As I sit in my Kailyard I wonder often about the future.

For many years I would not join one. I believed at the beginning of the 1980s that they had too much power in the UK and when I began teaching, I joined the only one that, on principle, refused to withdraw their labor.

I am now a member of two.

It is more the sign of an increasing understanding of labor relations than an increased militancy on my part, but I believe strongly that the bond between worker and employer is one that requires some finesse. It needs people at its heart to understand the compromises required and implement them with good grace. I may get paid to do a job, but I wish to be respected when it is scrutinized.

Unions have hit the headlines in both the UK and the USA this last month due to workers not being respected by the people who pay their wages.

In the UK a company now owned by another company, based in Dubai, sacked all their 800 workers with immediate effect last week. They did so in the employment equivalent of being dumped by text – in a Microsoft Teams call with a preprepared statement.

The Chief Executive Officer then appeared before our politicians and confirmed that they had knowingly broken the law in doing so. He then confirmed that they had hired foreign workers at below the national minimum wage in the UK to replace them. He then came to Scotland and confirmed what he had brazenly told politicians in London to politicians in Edinburgh.

We have noticed that in the US there is now an Amazon Union, led by a guy who was once sacked by them it would appear. It is the first time that Amazon has recognized such a thing – even though they seem to have been forced to by the courts and are appealing That surely makes them, way behind the curve on industrial relations? According to many scandals and undercover work by the media in the UK, this is certainly true as we have heard of such things as people sleeping in Amazon warehouses and being docked for going to the toilet and many other bad practices.

Of course, like all things going through an American court room, all may not be totally settled as there are other issues to be considered BUT it does mark a very significant day.

Now I have no idea what your policy or view on unions happens to be. As I have admitted above, mine has changed significantly. I have gone from seeing them as zero to now being a significant element in my own life.

The company for whom I work during the day does not recognize a union. Our man in charge of Human Resources does, however, consult people he knows in the movement regularly or, so I am told. His actions show that he does.

I have become a proponent of them and a supporter. It has been important to feel that, if at any time, I happen to be discriminated against that I shall have someone fighting my corner. Workers need that. Those who have access to the best attorneys and the advice don’t: they already have it.

It is a universal truth that where significant money is to be made, people can be tempted cut corners. Where they do that because they are a sole trader, a one-person band or simply a small business trying their best to succeed in a cutthroat world we can agree that this is more of a risk than reckless.

Where a company the size of Amazon can cut labor corners or the P & O company that acted so disgracefully in the UK can do so with seeming impunity, then we are in real trouble. Why?
Because the dignity of providing your labor for pay is a dignity. If an employer takes advantage of that dignity once, it is shame on them. If they continue to do it, it is shame on us, because we should have more than just us able to fight that battle.

A view from the new Kailyard or, how you look over there, from over here…

(Kailyard n. a cabbage patch, often attached to a school of writing – the Kailyard School – a genre of overly sentimental and sweet Scottish literature from the late 19th century where sentimental and nostalgic tales are told in escapist tales of fantasy, but here we seek to reverse it by making the Kailyard Observations of effective invective comment from that looks not to return to the past but to launch us into a better future by the one Donald worth believing…)

And today’s Scots word tae bamboozle ye…

Each time we see ye, we shall try tae leave ye wi a word o oors tae replace a word o thine. Jist fur the sake o learnin, ken!

Yowe trummle – literally ewe tremble in English and it means sudden cold weather.