The Gazette

Unions are not to blame

- Geoff Bulmer, Billingham

I FEEL impelled to counter Tony Maxwell’s claim regarding the damage being done to industry and the NHS by trade unions (The Gazette 23.3.2023).

He claims that our traditiona­l industries fell behind emerging nations because of the actions of trades unions, but this clearly not true.

After the Second World War, Japan and Germany were virtually rebuilt with state-of-the-art equipment, especially in the engineerin­g sector, by the allies.

At home the factories continued to operate using the out-ofdate equipment that already existed and little to no investment in new plants took place.

This was the fault of the owners of those industries, and this includes our government, who chose not to invest. It was no surprise that the Germans and Japanese outperform­ed us.

To suggest it was the fault of the unions is nonsense.

As the demise of the big industries started to be apparent, the government decided that privatisat­ion was the way forward, and as we can all now see that plan failed miserably.

What is also clear is that the industries that have survived are being milked for all they are worth by these privateers, and little real investment is seen.

Complacenc­y and a lack of investment and foresight are the real problems and we are no longer a major industrial player as a direct result. We now see our standard of living falling faster than ever before, inflation running out of control, record numbers of children living in poverty, foodbanks being used by working people, energy prices at record levels, yet company profits are at record levels too, and the government are giving tax breaks to the richest in society.

I feel that Mr Maxwell has swallowed the Tory story, hook line and sinker. They will always use the divide-and-conquer plan to create societal division and argument that causes the population to ignore the elephant in the room.

Do not blame the unions for standing up for their members when greedy CEO’s are taking home £1m salaries, eyewaterin­g bonuses and are paying shareholde­rs record dividends.

As for his claim about the NHS, I can agree that poor management is a factor, but to suggest that the unions are the other main problem is simply not true.

The other main problem is that whilst it is true that huge sums are spent on the NHS, these sums in real terms are less than they ever were.

Suppliers to the NHS almost have a licence to print profit – their inflated charges for everyday items is a national disgrace.

I would also point out that if it were not for trades unions there would no NHS, no pensions, no sick pay, no paid holidays, no safe working practices, indeed no workers’ rights at all.

Robert Jackson, Darlington

Optimistic Sir Keir will win at election

IT is not possible to predict what’s going to happen in the next general election.

The climate changes rapidly. At the moment Labour under Keir Starmer is doing well in the opinion polls.

The Tories under Rishi Sunak are being challenged by public sector workers.

They are asking for their pay to keep up with inflation.

When requests have fallen on deaf ears some have resorted to strike action.

On the day Jeremy Hunt outlined his budget, many public sector workers were on strike.

There were teachers, nurses, junior doctors, train drivers and passport staff.

Sir Keir Starmer has distanced himself from Jeremy Corbyn.

He appears to have listened carefully to the voters who occupy the middle ground in the Labour Party. He has tried to tackle anti-semitism. He operates in a cool rational manner. The parliament­ary Labour Party seems solidly behind him.

I am feeling optimistic that Keir will get in at the next general election. I liked Corbyn’s radical ideas but it seems the country is not ready for them yet.

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