I’ve been trying to do a little bit of ethical and pastoral thinking around the question of industrial action and strikes recently. Whilst this was a significant issue during the 1970s and 80s, it really slipped down the agenda over the following decades. However, it looks like we are entering a period where we can expect a lot of industrial and workplace discontent and numerous unions have voted for strike action, especially in the public sector.
In the light of the Junior Doctors strikes this week, I did a little survey on Twitter to find out the opinions of those who tend to interact with me there. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is reasonably representative of the kinds of people reading Faithroots too.
So what were the results?
I asked whether people believed that strikes were a good or bad thing, both in general and in relation to the current Junior Doctors dispute.
Those taking part in the survey tended to be more negative on this with the majority saying that either strikes in general, or this one in particular were wrong.
Whilst it would seem therefore that most people taking part considered the doctors strike to be wrong, they were also very clear about where they saw blame falling for the strike, not with the Junior Doctors themselves or their union but with the Government and with the NHS as employers.
Most respondents thought that the Bible does have something to say about our approach to industrial action. However, they also considered the issues and application to be complex.
This was reflected in the answers to the two other questions with a vast majority believing that the Bible’s teaching would allow for strikes in some but not all circumstances. In other words, wisdom to apply God’s word to a specific context is needed.
Finally, there was quite a level of caution about whether or not pastors should comment on issues like this.