Sunday 19 November 2017

Facing down ESB strike might have done us good

ESB union's threatened action reminds us that we are a divided economy, says Marc Coleman

Marc Coleman

Marc Coleman

IRELAND in 2013? Or Britain in 1979? As an electricity blackout loomed over the nation last week, you could have been forgiven for asking in which country, and in which year, we were living.

For those old enough to remember, the Seventies paralysed Britain and Ireland with strike action as militant unions pushed for higher wages against a backdrop of rising inflation. And had strike action not been averted here, a quarter of consumers would by tomorrow have been given a taste of emergency Seventies-style living conditions: cooking on mobile gas canisters and wearing blankets in the living room as you stare at the reflection of a naked candle flame on an empty TV screen. But the strike won't happen. The worst has been averted. Or has it?

In Seventies Britain, politicians breathed sighs of relief when strikes were averted and threw their hands up in the air when they went ahead. Strikes, so went the narrative, were a defeat and averting strikes a victory for the common man.

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