If you don’t actively follow the news in the UK, then take a look at this story on the BBC news website. It might not strike you as important, or even relevant, for a Nasscom audience. The backstory being that Italian and Portuguese workers were being brought in to work on an oil refinery in the UK. The workers felt that jobs were being denied to local people and walked out on strike, without even consulting their trade union.
It has caused the worst labour relations row for years in the UK, and the phrase that been dominant throughout this entire battle between the strkers, the employers, and the government has been: “British jobs for British workers…”
This story has the potential to go much further. Although the GMB union has negotiated a settlement at this particular refinery, the labour force is now agitated and there will probably be action at other refineries. This BBC article gives an overview of what happened and the likely outcome.
I would like to make a couple of comments for the Nasscom audience though. I have personally never heard rhetoric like this in the UK when linked to jobs. There is fear in the air in the UK right now. Fear of recession and fear of unprecendented job losses – the man on the street is scared, and it’s easy to understand why; corporate bankrupty has recently increased by 220 per cent.
As offshore outsourcing exploded in popularity, there was an initial backlash against the use of offshore staff, but I feel that we might be returning to the era of the backlash again – only this time the public will be even more scared and galvanised into more concerted action. In this era of social networking and smart single-issue campaigning, it’s easy to imagine individual companies being targeted by protestors who feel they are not employing enough local staff.
It is also highly likely that far-right political parties, such as the British National Party (excuse me while I spit on the floor), will make political capital out of this strike, and any new industrial unrest. How long before they actively start stirring up trouble in the service industry as a way of gathering votes from “patriots”?