How not to do it

I work for a public sector organisation and, unsurprisingly, we’re going through a round of redundancies. Our redundancy scheme is the national civil service one, which, equally unsurprisingly, the last government wanted to amend (to make it less generous – I’ll admit it was very generous). There were five unions involved, and four went along with the amendments because they thought the deal they were offered was the best they would get, especially in view of the likely change of government.

The fifth kicked off about it, wouldn’t agree and went to Court to stop the changes, which of course took months. They eventually won, but by that time the new government had taken office. What better excuse to re-open the whole issue and impose even less generous terms than a judge having just declared the new scheme illegal? Meanwhile, a bunch of people I work with, who are all going to be made redundant anyway, have had the stress they would be under anyway cranked up to crazy levels for months through not really knowing what kind of redundancy payment they might end up with. Some of them aren’t members of the union in question, or any union. Their response has been to pass all that stress on to those of us not affected by spending most of every day in endless and distracting conversations about their predicament (aren’t open plan offices great!) rather than working.

Why do unions behave like this? Pure stupidity, a misguided belief that the way you conduct industrial relations is through being as confrontational as possible (the equivalent of "macho management") or is there some kind of Machiavellian agenda I’ ve missed? As far as I can see, it’s the stupidest piece of tactics since Lord Cardigan led the Light Brigade down the valley at Balaclava towards those cannons. And then they wonder why union membership has declined so much.      

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