Tenaya Alattas pick(et)s scabs

A scab is a dry, rough incrustation of matted blood, debris, clot, and pus that forms over a wound or sore.  A scab is also a derogatory term for a dislikeable or contemptible person, especially one who is unreliable: a scoundrel. Within the trade union movement the pejorative label for a strike-breaker is a scab; to describe those who refuse to join, break or work in place of others on strike. A scab is, in summary, a person that some students/staff will find deeply offensive during the 48-hour strike next week.

The offence the scab causes is not for the individual act or crime against the rule of law. In fact, every major victory relating to your rights surrounding work were achieved with direct actions that were, in their time, illegal and subject to police repression. In the US for example, up until the 1930s.

The laws surrounding labor unions and strikes were simple—there were none. Thereby the scorn afforded to scabs  goes far deeper than breaking the law.
Rather, the offense of scabbing is to undermine the idea, purpose and effect of the workers on strike. The idea behind strike action is simple and powerful: if the terms and conditions of work are not acceptable to workers then no work shall be done. More than a protest, a stunt or a means to draw attention to a cause, the purpose of a strike is to cause a disruption. And while it may often disrupt people who didn’t really cause the problem, it’s the very disruption that produces an effect. That is by disrupting management and employers; a strike costs them money and time.

To scab is to bolster the economic and moral position of the employer. Management will say they do not have enough money to afford staff batter pay and conditions, arguing that the NTEU and CPSU are “greedy” with “gold plated” conditions. However one must only look at the million dollar salaries of management who are crying poor to see this is not a question of there not being enough money – but rather question of power. Striking shifts the balance of power towards the general/academic staff to enable maximum leverage in negotiations for better terms, conditions and wages. So if you don’t want to be called a scab next week, don’t go to class or cross the picket line.

Tenaya Alattas
Joint SRC Education Officer

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