Autumn 2010

(Repost – first appeared on Health24 2010)

“All the leaves are brown, and the sky is grey…” – anywhere else in the world you’d be correct in assuming that these are signs of autumn.  Not in South Africa in 2010 – those falling leaves and mounting clouds signal the beginning of a threatened railway strike. 

I went in to buy my monthly ticket and the man behind the window told me that he couldn’t sell me a monthly because MetroRail was going on strike from the 10th of May.

Great.

I purchased a weekly ticket, and thoughtfully pointed out to him that his strike was punishing me as a passenger/client, and as a taxpayer. 

Journeying into town, I realised that besides rising petrol costs and huge deficits in Government’s budgets due to wastage and fraud, I’m now being thrice-punished with disrupted train services.  And I’m one of the lucky ones. 

As long as I’m up at 5am and ready to leave by 5.45am, I can get a ride into the city – but what about people who aren’t in that position? 

Either they have to hand over a huge portion of their already-stretched meagre earnings to taxi-drivers (who could strike at the drop of a hat on any day of the week), or else they have to take leave, and some will even lose their jobs.

Now I’m very much in favour of organised labour, such as the unions that first formed in England during 1820-1860, because labour does need protection from rapacious bosses.  But what happens when the rapacious boss is also the elected government?  Weirdly, the strikes we’re experiencing now are protests against the prevailing State – and these strikers are shareholders of the very “company” they’re holding to ransom.

The same can be said for teachers, medical workers, the police services and the military – in fact pretty much anyone who goes on strike today (except for the notable exceptions of chain-store workers and mine workers).  Naturally, should the mines be nationalised, we would probably see mineworkers on strike within the year.

Sure, I could point out that the quickest way to lose all your chickens is to set a fox up as their guardian, but the stress that mismanagement and general mischief is placing on the workers and voters of this nation is starting to tell. 

And for each striker who imagines that this action is to their benefit – every producer/retailer/service-provider losing money due to your strike will have to increase their prices to make up the loss. 

So, whatever gains you get from this action will be spent on purchasing precisely the same amount of goods and services you were able to get before – maybe even less.  If you don’t like working for this government, use your vote and choose another.

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