This is a rare political post. Ignore if you so wish.
So, it seems that Unison, the union to which I belong, having decided to ballot all its members for a strike, has got the majority it wanted. 70% voted in favour. However, fewer than 30% of the members bothered to vote in what has been billed by union chiefs as the public sector fightback of the century. Several things have become obvious over the past few months:
1) Many public sector workers are indeed feeling particularly unfairly treated, and often with good reason.
2) Very few trust their own union (also, I believe, with good reason), and
3) Very few, in relative numbers at least, believe that as public workers, striking is the correct course of action.
I voted against the strike. Not because I think there's nothing wrong, because there is plenty. I voted against because it goes against each and every one of my principles as a public sector worker in general, and as a paramedic in particular. We are all entitled to our rights and privileges, and must indeed sometimes fight for them. Turning off the engines on all the ambulances, however, seems the wrong thing to do.
The government won't suffer if we down tools. Our patients will. These patients won't turn their anger at the government either, they'll aim it squarely between the eyes of the ambulance service, and at the very next paramedic they meet.
Time will tell if this strike will eventually go ahead, but I, for one, won't be striking. If that means resigning my membership of this particular union, so be it. If my maths is any good, it would seem that a mere 23% of members of one single union are holding an entire country to ransom. That, in and of itself, is wrong. If the majority of the majority voted in favour, then that might be something different. But to have two-thirds apathetic to the point of not voting, and then going out on strike based on the majority of a small minority, will always, in my eyes, be wrong.
Fight the fight, but don't lose sight of who we really are, what we really do, and who we are really here to help.