UK Labor Leader Threatens Strikes During the London Olympics

If you were part of the 99 percent in the United Kingdom, you’d be forgiven for being somewhat befuddled at the moment. Deep spending cuts, austerity and privatization plans are the political agenda in Parliament, yet the country also is preparing full-blast for a little trifle called the Olympic Games. The games’ pricetag has exploded from $3.7 billion to more than $14.5 billion (US dollars). In addition, there will be at least 13,500 British troops in the UK for the Olympics, more than are stationed in Afghanistan. Beyond the numbers of official troops, there will be at least 10,000 private guards and contractors. The esteemed Royal Navy’s largest battleship will be docked in Greenwich, to safeguard the equestrian events. Bomb-disposal units, helicopters, fighter jets and ground-to-air missiles will also be on standby. Welcome to “conservative” governance in the twenty-first century: a militarized, budget busting, carnival of neoliberalism disguised as sport.

Len McCluskey, the leader of the country’s largest union, Unite, has looked at this state of affairs and raised the specter of strike-action during the Olympics. McCluskey, in an interview with the Guardian said that the attacks on public sector workers were “so deep and ideological” that they had every right to target the games. He said, “The idea the world should arrive in London and have these wonderful Olympic Games as though everything is nice and rosy in the garden is unthinkable. Our very way of life is being attacked. By then, this crazy health and social care bill may have been passed, so we are looking at the privatisation of our National Health Service. I believe the unions, and the general community, have got every right to be out protesting.”

McCluskey also urged the public to engage in “all forms of civil disobedience within the law.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband set a land-speed record for throwing the union under the bus,tweeting, “Any threat to the Olympics is totally unacceptable and wrong. This is a celebration for the whole country and must not be disrupted.”

Miliband’s response shouldn’t be shocking. It was Labour leaders Tony Blair and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone who secured the Olympics as part of their Cool Brittania initiative. Blair is now disgraced. Livingstone was voted out, yet the Games remain.

Following Miliband’s case of the shakes, all political parties are falling over themselves to condemn McCluskey’s remarks. Tory Prime Minister David Cameron twisted the knife.“Unite is the single biggest donor to the party opposite [Labour], providing around a third of their money, and had more role than anybody else in putting the right honourable gentleman [Miliband] in his place,” he said. “It’s not good enough for them just to put out a tweet. They need to condemn this utterly and start turning back the money.” A spokesman for Cameron further called the threats “unacceptable and unpatriotic.”

Conservative leaders aren’t just talking. They have been trying to pass anti-strike legislation, to fine and imprison workers involved in any work stoppages. Current London Mayor Boris Johnson wants a law that makes any strike action prohibited unless unions get a majority of every single member on the rolls to vote in favor walking out. McCluskey’s response to these threats has been to dig in. “If [ministers] make these attacks against us, trying to limit the type of strike action…. if they push us outside the law, they are going to have to live with the consequences of that,” he said. “Because if we need to break the law in order to defend what are our basic human rights—right of association—then we will do that.”

We will see if McCluskey can wrangle concessions on pay for UNITE workers during the Olympics or whether he and the 200,000 (including 28,000 transportation workers) walk out and cripple the Olympics.

If you listen closely, you can hear IOC officials wishing every Olympics could be held in China so dissenters like McCluskey can be rounded up and dealt with in efficient fashion. If the unions and British left aren’t vigilant, the IOC may get their wish.

11 Reader Comments | Add a comment

No Reformism, No Retreat

Hopefully the strike can actually turn into something, as opposed to it being co-opted by even more reformist groups who want to win change through the useless ballot box.

13,500 British troops & 10,000 private guards, huh?

Hey Zirin, wonder why London believes it needs such a "militarized" atmosphere you so denounce? Hint, it ain't those Christian Conservatives or Zionists you love to denigrate every chance you get. But we mustn't talk about that, of course, because we're all equal under the banner of Leftist doublespeak.

For more reading:

small correction

The Royal Navy doesn't operate any battleships - actually, no navy does. You probably mean either /Illustrious/, the RN's largest carrier, or one of the three large /Daring/-class destroyers.

needed strikes

All of Europe is under siege on their social welfare programs, especially health care. I think England is a test case & it's important that the unions--representing all working folk--stand strong. The likes of ALEC are not relegated only to the U.S.

A note to jjdynomite: wikipedia is only slightly to the left of Fox News.

Sorry Dennis if the Islamic terrorist threat is so unpalatable to you...

... and your multi-culti Leftist drones. And it is news to me that Wikipedia is a right wing news source. Fine, then, here you go:

Samantha Lewthwaite, Widow Of 7/7 Bomber Jermaine Lindsay, On Kenyan Terror Wanted List

7/7 Bombings: Inquest Into London Attacks Cost 4.6 Million

Yup, Dennis, that's 4.6 Million that could have been designated to you and your union brethren, or to your social welfare programs that are "under seige". Of course, there's the underlying contention of whether Muslim immigrants to Europe actually contribute a net positive to the social safety net, or suck it dry. Want some links from neutral sources to that too, Dennis?

The Muslim Spectre

jj, stop using sporadic episodes of violence committed by Muslims as reason to justify the police state.

I could rattle of a list of crimes committed in the name of a Christian god (the Iraq war) to justify the illegal policing of a certain people.

It's nothing more than a divide and conquer technique by the state to easily govern over the people.

Well those

13,500 soldiers and 10,000 private security forces will make the fascists who traditionally compose the IOC feel very at home in London.

7/7 Bomings

jjdynomite, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this as you seem to be quite the expert, but it is a matter of record that a) the 7/7 bombers weren't immigrants, they were as British as David Cameron and b) they explicitly stated their actions were a response to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

An excellent column Dave. Needless to say the right-wing press have whipped up their usual "outrage" over this, claiming it's a deceleration of class war or treason or whatever Victorian flummery they're peddling on any given day. Ignoring the rather more naked class war coming from the top against the poor, elderly, sick and young.

Kudos also to Devin, especially regarding your first post. I'm with you 100%.

Steve and Devin's Leftist delusions about Islamic fascism

Like Hitch, this post (and Steve and Devin's responses to it) are one of the reasons I abandoned the blame-the-West Left.


Indeed, Islamic fascism is growing among middle class, well-educated Muslims in "Londonistan." Contrary to Leftist delusions, the 7/7 bombers were not members of the poor underclass. They were educated, privileged bourgoisie, who freely embraced Islamic facism.

Bullshit Devin. Only one of the 7/7 Islamic fascists (Shehzad Tanweer) explicitly mentioned the U.K.'s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention the U.K.'s support of America and Israel, and somehow Russia in Chechyna-- but the rationale keeps shifting, doesn't it?).

Meanwhile, Mohammad Sidique Khan said all Brits were targets due to their "democratically-elected governments," and babbled on about eschewing "tangible commodities" (despite having quite a few himself).

Besides, the U.K. is out of Iraq, and is scheduled to be out of Afghanistan before the 2014 Olympics. Does anyone believe that the Olympics won't continue to be a terrorist target, putting a lie to their rationalizations (or creating yet more)?

You're right Steve and Devin, the Olympic organizers should stop being meanies, get rid of the security, and be nice to the poor terrorists. That worked so well in Munich in 1972.

Welcome to the Police State

It's so easy to justify the police state when you're not being targeted, isn't it Tornado?

Khan's Quote

"Meanwhile, Mohammad Sidique Khan said all Brits were targets due to their 'democratically-elected governments'..."

That seems to imply that Khan believed that the British deserved to be targeted because their country is a democracy.

What Khan said was: "Your democratically elected governments continuously perpetuate injustice against my people all over the world, and your support of them makes you directly responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

Rather, it appears to me that Khan was pointing out the irony of a government that is chosen by the people to behave in a brutal manner by taking part in the invasions of two Muslim countries. And most of the people did nothing to stop it.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to
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