Look At It This Way - August 1, 2014

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I was on strike for six weeks back in the 1970s but probably spent more time early doors in the Little Vic than on a picket line.

Whether that technically constituted being a scab I’ll never know but I’ve picked at the memory until it’s become an open sore.

Some former colleagues still won’t speak to those who crossed the picket line.

It wasn’t the Miners’ Strike but journalists mine a rich seam through the very fabric of society ... and feelings ran deep.

So while I have never crossed a picket line I didn’t really give it the support it needed – from head, heart and guts, the core of what you stand for.

I’m not proud of who I was back then. I also know I came off badly, I was young, single, and the NUJ hardship fund had other priorities.

Today I hold my head a little higher. It’s taken long enough. The social deprivation and injustices reported on over 40 years have much to do with it.

It takes a lot to go on strike today. Far more hoops to jump through. Just cause to establish, ballot of members, serve due notice.

It can’t be a lightning strike, not when schools, fire stations and council offices are involved.

In the old I’m All Right Jack days they could down tools, one out all out, you can’t get me I’m part of the union.

Rest assured that anyone on strike today weighs up what it may mean to job security, promotion, prospects of dodging the next round of cuts.

For the Passport Office it means trying to put a end to cutbacks which have led to delays in processing passports. For air traffic controllers it’s all about so-called efficiencies to rationalise air borders.

For the fire service it’s about respect. A fire station will never be a “service delivery outlet” and those on the frontline deserve recognition, in their pensions, of the toll taken by their role.

Striking journalists of old and recent times campaigned to keep quality services at the heart of the communities they serve. It’s not so different for teachers, fire officers, civil servants, council workers.

For most it’s not so much about hidden pay cuts in sudden charges for staff parking as safeguarding services from systematic (and systemic) erosion by central Government cutbacks. That’s at the heart of Wyre’s free trams for pensioners row, not local councils covering tracks.

We’re a nation of whingers. We judge strikes in terms of impact upon us. We call suicides selfish if their death delays our journey by road or rail.

If teachers strike because of pay, pensions, conditions or changes to education we complain we have to take time off work or get someone to look after our kids. But it’s their future that’s ultimately at stake.

The civil service has been changed almost beyond recognition locally by what the Cabinet Office calls a “faster, smaller, more unified sharing service.” It’s also known as privatisation?

Yet when others walk out, we feel put out, put upon.

But strikes are all about sending messages. Some take decades to arrive. Ask the 

NUM leader Arthur Scargill was labelled a liar for claiming the National Coal Board secretly planned to close more than 70 pits with the loss of up to 700k jobs.

Until Cabinet papers for 1984, released by the National Archives, this year revealed coal board chairman Ian Macgregor had advised Mrs Thatcher’s ministers of plans to close 75 pits with the loss of 64,000 jobs.

History has much to teach us. Lessons are often painful. Ask any teacher on a picket line.

Astrological healthcare a horror scope

I’ve got a mate with a life limiting condition whose operation has been cancelled several times – because the machine used in the procedure is broken.

The NHS is in a state of attrition as cutbacks bite through the bone into the marrow of the service.

This paper featured a story recently about two women with appointments repeatedly cancelled – in spite of having iffy smear results.

Their procedures may be relatively routine but no woman dances lightly to Gyne with a song in her heart and quip on her lips. You psyche yourself up.

Same with my mate – the whole family picks up the pieces each time her op’s cancelled.

In time we may see it coming. One rising star in parliamentary ranks, MP David Tredinnick, says better healthcare is in the stars.

Herbal remedies and alternative therapies are now accepted in parts of the NHS but the MP for Bosworth has the field to himself for astrological healthcare. Not so much a horoscope as a horror scope. The only place I want to find Russell Grant in Gyne is in the magazines in the waiting room. We’d both bolt for the exit.

Tredinnick says he’s not afraid of ridicule or abuse. Good. Because I think he’s talking through Uranus.

Football saga now a game of two letters

The Blackpool FC saga goes from bad to farce. No one wants to see muck-slinging on this scale.

Football is now a game of Two Letters (Belokon vs Karl Oyston) for Blackpool FC never did things by halves.

But did you spot a paragraph in the paper this week about the manager still looking for players and a goalie two weeks before season’s start?

Not the back page but Memory Lane – with reference to 25 years ago.

The more things change the more they stay the 

The Latvians have another good saying: “Dumš tas putns, kam sava lizda nav mīļa”.

Loosely translated it means never wash your dirty linen in public.