In the moment of passing, that which sustained us when all else may have seemed lost or too difficult has been taken from us. Today I mourn our Queen and remember how much she inspired so many of us, her subjects. May she rest in peace. God Save the Queen!

Today a new Monarch takes to the throne. May he find the wisdom to lead by good example. Long Live the King!

I’m going to tell a tale that I had hoped would never need retelling. It involves the history of right wing Conservative government, Trade Union efforts to protect workers rights and jobs, alongside opportunistic management hoping to cash in on the situation. You may ask “What has prompted this unusual post from me?” Today I saw a tweet from my Union confirming that for the first time since 1987, there would be a national strike of Telecoms workers.

Let me underline the time line here – first strike since 1987! That ought to tell something straight away. Contrary to what most of the press and, especially the likes of the Daily Mail and The Express, want you to believe – Most Trade Unions do not seek strife. I can remember lots of years from 1972 through to when I retired in 2017 when both the union and the management politely rattled sabres in early discussions before seeking a deal that both looked after the rights and pay of the workers and also allowed the company to move forward and gain more earnings for shareholders. Of course, back in 1972, my company was actually a publicly owned company – Post Office Telecommunications. That fact should not influence what I have to say although it’s probably fair to attribute the relative peace and calm in the early years to a certain ‘Civil Service’ approach to a nationally owned company.

Then, after a long fought battle in which the case was well made for keeping The Royal Mail and British Telecommunications as national companies, privatisation was carried out by the Conservative government in 1984 – With money to be made and the public duped into buying something they already owned, the city loved it because the majority of the new shareholders sold their shares immediately for a short lived pittance 😒 The workers were also offered shares as part of the deal – some refused to take them on principle but I took mine because sometimes, the best way to fight is to take advantage of an enemies weakness. I still have them. I viewed it as a battle lost in an ongoing war.

1987 was a year when a Conservative landslide emboldened managers all over the UK. The battles with the Miners in 1984-85 where the police were widely used as political pawns by a rampant Conservative government made them feel that they could do whatever they liked to crush their employees. So, when the Union entered into the annual pay-bargaining with BT management that year, they did so using the usual initial tactic of an overtime ban. It’s intended to limit the effect of the action so customers are unlikely to be affected in the short term. That’s part of the Union playbook. In these industrial dispute situations, both the Union and the Management have playbooks that take them through escalations until they reach a level of pain that one or the other can’t sustain – at which point an agreement is struck. Both the Union and the Management usually know each other’s playbooks pretty well!

I cannot recall a point in all of the period from when I joined the company until 1987 when anything went beyond an overtime ban and, possibly, a couple of token 1-day strikes with an associated march to advertise our grievance. We even went through a protracted period of fighting for reduced hours in that period. My memory may be a little lacking but I can certainly not recall any extended periods of industrial action by us. As an aside and to illustrate what sort of union we were then, a Policeman shepherding one of our marches confided that he loved walking with us because there was never any trouble! I believe the CWU is still the same ‘negotiate first’ union that it has always been.

1987 was a watershed moment. When the Union, as usual, announced an overtime ban, the management decided to throw the playbook out of the window. The following morning, as we turned up for work, we were met by managers at each building presenting us with a document to sign before we would be allowed in. The basic tenet of the document was ‘Work as instructed or hand in your passcards’. It was a huge mistake by the management! That day I saw members who I would have had to argue into taking industrial action, throwing their passcards on the table in disgust and walking out of the building. By the end of the morning it was a huge problem, for the Union of all people – I can remember one of the senior London Officers saying “We’ve got a Tiger by the tail – How do we control it?”

This Strike – it was never a strike in reality although the press liked to call it that – Was a management inspired lock out that ground on for 3 weeks until the management and the union were able to mend the fences that were broken by the arrogant management behaviour at the start. The management got some improved flexibility of hours in customer facing roles. The union got reduced working hours for the vast majority of members with many getting a 9 day fortnight.

Looking back, it was an absolute tragedy for all the staff who found themselves locked out. Many had mortgages and young children. But they stood firm against a despicable act by management, many of whom subsequently were quietly shuffled out of their jobs – the price of failure?

To put some perspective on the aftermath of those events. Both sides looked over the edge of the precipice. Neither liked what they saw. It resulted in 35 years of relative peace with sensible approaches taken by the Management and the Union to resolve disagreements. I guess it should come as no surprise that, when we have another rampant right wing Conservative government, once more my Union finds itself forced into an industrial action situation 😟

If you don’t agree with my thoughts on this, that’s your prerogative. I’ve told it as I saw it from the inside. I just wish we weren’t going through this again!

…But not as we know it!

I’ve been watching Sci-Fi shows on TV and at the cinema since I was knee-high to an Ewok. I remember hiding behind the sofa sometimes when watching the first Dr Who series as a kid – Watching replays makes me think that somehow black and white made it more scary. I fell in love with Star Trek when the original series was brought to the UK’s TV screens. Some of those stories were iconic and some remain in the back of my consciousness to this day. Others less so as they have been let down by dated scenery and effects.

Originally Star Trek was a set of stories that normally had a conclusion within the same episode. That was the format that The Next Generation followed to a large extent. Although there was the ‘Continuum’ of the characters being on a vessel that was exploring, each episode was just a snapshot in time.

The first hint that this was going to change was with Voyager. Now there were stories that continued from one episode to the next, either beneath the surface or up-front and in full technicolour. If you can take your eye off Jeri Ryan’s tight-fitting suit you will see the significant tale of 7 of 9 that grew over 100 episodes. This was so different to the past where we knew what every officer’s role was on the Enterprise and saw very little change in their status as the exploring went on.

Bring on Deep Space 9 – Now we’re in a series with a continual ongoing story. While the foreground is still episodic, there is a long growing background story that will ultimately see full blown war. So, Star Trek has evolved significantly over the years and shed its ‘good guys always win every episode’ skin. It has even accepted the possibility that the bad guys may sometimes be the good guys and vice versa – the Andorians and the Vulcans in Enterprise being a case in point.

That brings me to Picard. This new series on Amazon has had a bit of a mixed response and I must admit that on my first watch I was a bit non-plussed. It’s only when I look back at the way that the Star Trek franchise has changed that I realise that this series is the next logical growth. It has the ongoing story that Deep Space 9 had. It finds a way to involve characters from older Trek series but treats them with a level of respect that maybe the films did not – it recognises that they are older. It introduces new characters that we can love or dislike too. It benefits from all the wonders of modern CGI while capitalising on some good acting and it presents our heroes as more flawed than I think we have ever seen them before. On a second run through of the first series, I’m now fully engaged and loving it 😎👍

If you haven’t, I’d love to recommend that you try watching Star Trek Picard too 😀