The company I work for seems to be heading towards a strike 🙁

The issue that’s causing the problem can be boiled down to money, but in particular it’s changes to the pension arrangements. The pension fund, like most other large companies in the UK is now underfunded by a large amount – an amount too large for the company to simply pay and too large even for a combination of a the company paying more and those contributing increasing their payments to fill. Apparently we’re all living a lot longer than was originally allowed for and the difference between the age that can be funded and our life expectancy is accelerating! Solving the funding issues won’t be easy.

While the fund is still being valued and audited it’s difficult to know exactly how big the hole is, but even before that exercise has been completed the company have put forward a proposal that would reduce my pension very greatly. According to some independent estimates the overall difference would be a 6 figure sum, starting with a mid-range number! Using the calculations produced by the company I’ll only be marginally worse off – assuming inflation remains below 2.5 % until I die! Hmm, likely? Nah, didn’t think so.

Like most workplaces, unions play a role in the day to day running where I work. Without them the job would definitely be a lot harder with terms and conditions nowhere near what I have today. They play a vital role in balancing the desires and dreams of the company. It will come as no surprise that, like all unions, the people who make the decisions related to my workplace are people I work with who are elected by the members on a regular basis. Their response to this situation has been measured and sensible, but they have rejected the initial offer (as have every union represented within the company). There is now open and serious talk of a strike ballot virtually every day at work.

The overriding feeling within the company was initially not, surprisingly, as anger, but as betrayal – a far more dangerous emotion to evoke. The last few years have seen a lot of changes and much has already been given to ensure the health of the company, but until now, the basic foundations of our contracts had been sacrosanct.

Most unions have now talked openly about strike action. Some are further along than others, but all are setting out along the path. The feelings among the staff are hardening and the sense of betrayal is being joined by one of resignation as the company line seems to be hardening. When the chief exec talks to a bunch of city people at an dinner speech and promises that the issue will not result in a strike it doesn’t seem as though the management are in touch with the feelings of the workforce.

It doesn’t bode well when there is seemingly no willingness to discuss a revised offer nor is there a recognition of how the workforce is feeling. Acknowledging the seismic shift in contractual terms that this embodies would at least go some way to persuading the workforce that the management was paying attention.

The title is a reference to my particular position. I’m not in a union these days. When things got “interesting” last time I was in the union, but since then I’ve left as they didn’t seem interested in representing and supporting the issues I felt were important. One voice amount thousands has no sway and I had no desire to stand as a rep, so I left and stopped paying people to do things I didn’t agree with. Seemed reasonable at the time and still does now. I’ve monitored their activities but at no point have I felt like rejoining – until now.

“Don’t be a hypocrite” was a statement I made earlier this year. I meant it. Which is why I’m now wondering what I should do. If I rejoin the union it likely will only be until all this is settled, but leaving as soon as it is seems hypocritical and selfish – not something I really have any desire to be.

The law of the land says that I have no protection from dismissal if I refuse to cross a picket line. The company can simply fire me and that’s that. I’d have no form of recourse as I chose to break the terms of my contract and not attend work. If I’m in a union I’m protected. Of course, if I cross a picket line then I have to live with the consequences for the next 20 or 30 years – not an ideal situation either.

I don’t have to decide straightaway as the ballot hasn’t been issued yet and there is still some discussion taking place, but I’m not hopeful. The general feeling of doom, gloom and despondency is quite overpowering – unless you’re in management!