The trouble with unions


With The Communication Workers Union (CWU) trying to hold the country to ransom, at increasing cost to individuals and businesses, it is worth considering how the free association of people into unions can have such disastrous consequences, and how we can stop it happening in the future.

The underlying trouble with unionization is its ability to capture government, particulary when that industry is so protectected by the government. Ironically many on the left – often quite rightly – disparage the relationship between big business and government, but they also need to accept that many unions behave no better. The problem in both instances is not the survival and expansionist interests of business and unions, but the power of the government to regulate and discriminate.

This latest example shows that the interests of the wokers are not always aligned with the country at large; and more importantly considering the rhetoric of the unions,  they are not aligned with the weakest, poorest and least able, but its members. Despite claims to the contrary, unions are not even vehicles for equality, but a special interest group, no less insidious than other corporatists.

The weakest, poorest and least able are – and by definition must be – outside unions. Many of the excluded are in the UK, but many more are in the poorest countries of the world that unions keep down through the promotion of protectionist policies. Protectionism – another misleadingly defensive word – aggresses those that are least able to defend themselves. Unions’ policies are not diverse or fair; only free markets truly help those at the bottom of the ladder: unions are a club to keep them out.

Of course, we should not give in to the bullyboy tactics of the CWU and to forstall the imediate crisis the post office is right to employ temps to cover the work of those on strike. But more importantly it is vital that the next government does not ignore the real problem at hand. All aspects of mail delivery need to be entirely liberalized,  Postcomm needs to be scrapped and employment law reformed to allow freedom of contract between employer and employee. Unless government is taken out of the equation, we will keep getting the same industrial disputes with the same inevitable results.

One only need look to Heath and Callaghan to learn the lessons of inaction.