Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"HISTORY TEACHES EVERYTHING..."

"History teaches everything, including the future" - Lamartine
The wildcat strikes over the employment of foreign workers in the energy and construction industries in Britain have been reported fairly in Italy and opinion is divided here, too, with the President calling the strikes intolerable and the right-wing Lega defending them.
Here in Sicily there is much interest as a company from Siracusa is involved. Most people I have discussed the matter with react calmly but with some incredulity: " Don't the British realise they are in the EU and we have free movement of labour?" I must say that, looking at my own country from the outside, it would appear not. "But the company won a fair competition for the contract!" is another logical reaction.
Immigrant and foreign communities have been blamed for the economic situation of their host countries since time immemorial, partly because they are easily identifiable. There have also always been groups who, for their own purposes, play upon fear and encourage the worst instincts in all of us. This time, paradoxically, a Conservative leader has accused a Labour Prime Minister of doing just that, as witnessed at Prime Minister's Questions today.

In an effort to understand what is going on from all sides, I've been re-reading some chapters of Brenda [now Baroness] Dean's autobiography, Hot Mettle. Brenda Dean was the leader of the British print union SOGAT at the time of its bitter dispute with Murdoch's News International. A very interesting letter from Rupert Murdoch's solicitors was obtained and published by the Morning Star in 1985. It contained this sentence: "... if a moment came when it was necessary to dispense with the present workforce...... the cheapest way of doing so would be to dismiss employees while participating in a strike or other industrial action."

I usually leave conspiracy theories to others and I am aware that trade union legislation has changed. However, these strikes have not been supported by the unions and there does not, as far as I can judge, seem to be a racist element, so, in a time of recession, could it be that the group with a vested interest in inciting these strikes is not the obvious one?

15 comments:

Gledwood said...

I'm sure someone's put this far more wittily than me (and probably in rhyme) but the political "more" in times of trouble seems to be:

"blame the bloody foreigner!!"

Gledwood said...

ps talking of Murdoch, I'm reading Thatcher's memoirs: The Downing Street Years ~ fascinating!!

Crushed said...

I think its more incompetence and bad people management at the root of it.
That and these are uncertain times. People are justifiably anxious.

But one thinks of the Miners strike, which certainly was a godsend to thhose wanting to kill the mining industry.

Nothing would surprise me.

PinkAcorn said...

It reminds me of the Bank of America here in the USA hiring scads of foreign workers instead of our own citizens...and now we are giving the banks billions in bail outs...wow, and Obama put a $500,000 cap on CEO bonuses! Poor chaps...my Christmas bonus at work is a $25.00 grocery store credit! Ha!

jmb said...

I shall have to look into this further but as in any situation like this often the there are forces at work that are not at all obvious on the surface and agendas may be quite different from how they appear.

CherryPie said...

I think the dispute was about the the British wanting to have an equal chance to do the jobs more than they didn't want any foreigners doing the jobs.

Winchester whisperer said...

You were right, WL: there won't be a election this year and the BNP are relishing the "British jobs for British workers" mantra.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Gleds. And that's what they're doing! I don't think I could stand Thatcher's memoirs but can imagine they are interesting. Hi, Crushed. Good points. Nothing would surprise me, either. Hi, pink. That puts things in perspective! Hi, jmb. Exactly. Hi, cherrypie. Do you think the contract was awarded in an unfair way?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Ciao, WW. I bet they are!

jams o donnell said...

I got the feeling that it was anger and frustration at a situation beyoned their control rather than a racist matter.

Still it would be so easy for it to take that direction though

Ellee Seymour said...

I envy all the reading you and Gledood can do.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, jams. I don't think it's a racist matter either. But I do think the workers are being used.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Ellee. If I'm not reading, there is something wrong!

Jonathan said...

This would never happen in Italy (especially the south.) They don't need a Government to tell them too employ local workers. Italians employ they're own, buy they're own produce, eat they're own food. Everyone knows what the EU laws are but it's only us Brits that follow them and put our selves on an uneven playing field as usual. It's not the workers; it's not the government, its British people. Help yourselves!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Jonathan. Thank you for commenting on my blog. You are certainly right about southern Italians eating their own products. But many foreign workers are employed here.

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