“A recession can be a good time to grow a business”. Thus is the opinion of Lord Young, a British cabinet minister under late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and still having his own office in Downing Street. Lord Young’s comments are stated in a report to be published this week and addressed to Prime Minister David Cameron. It is obvious that Lord Young stands for a “creative destruction” and is actually stating an economic truth. But truth is not always welcomed by unions and especially by the Trades Union Congress.
By Nicolas Lecaussin
In France the national economy and the fate of thousands of employees are regularly linked to the grand “social conference”. Successive presidents have paid tribute to the ritual of “social dialogue”. Nicolas Sarkozy did so several times during his presidency with well-known results: the unions firmly opposed the timid attempts at reform and finally called for a vote for the socialist candidate in May 2012. François Hollande enthusiastically followed suit by imposing a two-day “grand social conference” in July 2012.
Portugal is traditionally a leftist country. Since the Carnation Revolution in 1974, in which the Left threw out the fascist government of Marcelo Caetano, it is fashionable in Portugal to be leftist and being labeled socialist. If a proof was needed, in the 2011 elections, all 6 parties in parliament claimed to be leftist parties, and all the three parties who signed the Troika memorandum (yes, the ones who signed it were: PS, PSD and CDS/PP) have Social or Socialist in its very name.
France is famous for its wine, cheese and…unions. It is well established now that any reform considered by any government, left or right, has to be approved by unions (or, at least, not strongly opposed) in order to have a chance to be passed. Strange situation in a country where less than 8% of all employees have a union membership card–the lowest rate in the EU. Despite the poor legitimacy that such a low membership rate implies, unions are getting important grants and allowances from the state as well as from businesses.
The UK post office Royal Mail is at least as fervent adept to strikes as the French Poste office. The Unions chose the open clash with the managers, rather than to follow the privatization plan. It is true that the privatization of Royal Mail would compromise a lot of the “traditions” in the company. For example, in the beginning of the decade 10 000 of the 170 000 employees were missing every working day, without any valuable reason. The cost of this absenteeism was 350 mln. of pounds per year.