1926 and all that
Brian Souter, co-founder of Stage Coach, is the sort of person who is often described as a ‘colourful character’. I am sure he is often described rather more robustly than this, but this a family blog so I’ll stick to the euphemisms. When some-one’s wikipedia entry looks like it must be made up but in fact it isn’t (unusual for wikipedia!) then you know you are dealing with a rare fish indeed.
So perhaps I shouldn’t be surpised that his response to a recent UNITE T&G dispute over pay was not to sit down and try and reach an amicable settlement but to dust off his driving gloves, jump in a bus and try to break the strike (see this Times report). I reckon this makes him the first CEO of a large British company to to sit behind the wheel of a bus in an effort to break a strike since 1926, but I could be wrong!
Underneath the slightly bizarre nature of this story is a serious issue for unions. While Brian Souter acknowledged that for the ‘working man’, ‘Inflation has not been running at 5 per cent… but at twice that, what with food prices and fuel bills‘, he also claimed that, ‘Drivers think it is more important to keep their jobs in the current climate’. Is this a line that we can expect to hear more employers use over the coming months – forget your pay keeping pace with inflation, just be thankful you’ve got a job?
While some companies will be genuinely struggling with the impacts of the downturn, I think its clear we’ll also see some of the more unscrupulous employers using this an opportunity to cut jobs, depress wages and demand more from their staff, meaning unions will have to be on their toes. Anyone out there come across examples of this yet?
PS – for more General Strike resources go to the excellent ‘The Union Makes Us Strong’ site.