The planned Christmas strike by BA cabin crew reminds us again that the problems which beset British industry in the seventies haven't gone away and that the biggest problem of all retains its capability to be self destructive.
The problems I refer to are, of course, industrial relations and the reason they remain so bad is predominantly down to the attitude of unions who refuse to acknowledge the lessons of the past and the role that they played in the demise of British industry.
Let me say, first of all, that I am not opposed to unions. They are, in theory, a good idea - but far too often they are led by militant and, to be quite frank, lunatic left wingers who still believe that capitalism is the enemy that must be slain. Let me also point out that I don't believe that the management of BA is free of culpability either - whenever there is an economic downturn it is the usual response of a business to cut pay, bonuses and jobs even if the business remains buoyant.
If business was more honest in the way it did these things rather than always looking for any old excuse to bash their own employees then maybe the unions would be less aggressive back - but business in Britain is incapable of thinking much beyond anything other than the current share price or the short term. However, this style of management is not a uniquely British thing whereas unions hell bent on destroying the industry their members work for is.
The British car industry was destroyed by militant unionism. It wasn't that long ago that the last major British car manufacturer shuffled into the pages of history when the unions hammered the last nail into Rover's coffin. Now it appears Unite (a daft name for a union if ever there was one) is determined to do the same to BA.
BA has made a massive loss. It's going to get even worse. No ifs buts or maybes - it is on its last legs. They really do need to reduce costs or the company will collapse. When that happens, the BA cabin crew won't just have lower pay - they won't have any pay which is exactly what happened to the employees of Rover the vast majority of which now work in call centres for a fraction of the money or claim the dole. Great job protecting the workers there!
I've got no doubt that once Unite have smashed BA into the ground they will then demand that the government step in to save the company - which won't happen. What would be the point? It didn't help the nationalised car industry or the nationalised coal industry or the nationalised steel industry.
And that's another point worth mentioning. Even though I am a right winger who believes in the capitalist economic system, I believe that nationalising an industry is sometimes both right and necessary. It wasn't nationalisation that destroyed our coal, car and steel industries - it was militant unions. Of course, it wasn't helped by some of the government decisions taken along the way - such as joining the "Common Market" which is now having a similarly ruinous effect on one of our last nationalised industries; the Post Office.
Throughout the latter half of the 20th century it was militant unionism that was largely responsible for destroying British industry. It seems they are determined to keep doing the same today. I don't think they'll ever stop until the last major British industry is consigned to history, but at least then we won't have to worry about militant unionism any more.