During the past one week the employee union of London Underground caused a strike, stopping the London mass transport system London Underground better known as Tube. The inconvenience caused was unbelievable! Workers in the city were not able to reach office leading to GDP loss, physical and mental aggravation to all the travelers, Problems for tourists amongst many other issues. The strike also got me thinking about the various strikes which keep happening and how can one make a strike more successful.
According to Wikipedia,
A strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants. It is also characterized by participation of workers in a multitude of workplaces, and tends to involve entire communities. Strikes are sometimes used to put pressure on governments to change policies. Occasionally, strikes destabilise the rule of a particular political party.
So from the strategic point of view I feel the following points are most important:
- A strike should have a goal! To change government policy, economic reasons, political reasons, whatever but the goal should be clear and decided.
- The strike should gain sympathy from communities! The strike is a way to let the masses know about your demand and make them sympathize with you, so you definitely need them to relate with you!
- The strike should reach out, make a difference to the people!
Now lets take a few examples of the various strikes which keep happening in the country and try to analyze them from the strategic point of view.
Kolkata Bandh! The very lovely state of West Bengal in India is famous for almost continuous strikes throughout the year conducted by CPM (the ruling party) and Trinamool. What is amazing is how these strikes are a complete failure and only a loss to West Bengal. Whenever central government passes a policy against CPM there is a strike in West Bengal. The strike does not reach out to anyone in the country (except poor West Bengal citizens and Kolkata Business Travellers), the entire country keeps working and contributes to GDP and West Bengal takes another holiday and burns some buses! The strike does not get any sympathy from citizens across the country and in fact even Kolkata residents are not fed up of this. The result is a total failure and a mockery of a strike (it becomes just another holiday for a lazy babu)
Youth4Equality! Lets not discuss the issue of reservations but focus on the strike caused by doctors (and engineers) around India against the OBC reservation act. The goal was clear, to prevent the passing of the OBC reservation act by the Congress Government. The major failures were because of points 2 and 3. The strike could not make the people sympathize with the doctors nor could they get any publicity. Media easily shows people suffering outside government hospitals and doctors not giving treatment. Its a no brainer which side the sympathy will go! How many people actually give medical / engineering exams and how many actually know about them? The strike needed to reach out to the masses and it did not.
Bollywood Producers Strike! In India movies are important, afterall it is the favorite timepass for the weekend. When movie producers wanted to get a bigger pie from multiplexes they needed to strike in a very simple way! Make a difference to the life of the average moviegoer. By not releasing any films for a period of 2 months they were able to get the attention of everyone in the country (though they did not get the sympathy). At the end of 2 months people were dying to see a movie and the multiplexes were dying of the debt burdens! Instant solution by the strike.
Strike by Factory Employee Unions! A strike by factory unions typically works on the sympathy angles and mostly is even able to pull it off! Nobody likes to see people crying over television regarding how are they going to feed their kids or send them to school. A very recent example is the Jet Airways firing of staff and in fact they did not even need to do a strike!
To sum it up doing a strike is an important way to affect policy decisions. But doing a strike is also like the game of bowling where you need to get all the 9 pins down in 1 go to get a strike! You need to have a plan, gain sympathy, make yourself indispensable and then you can virtually get anything done!