How professional is a strike?

Old fashioned commentators say there are just two professions – medicine and the law. The rest is glorified trade.

I prefer to see the world as full of “mysteries”or crafts. The essence of the two professions is a combination of extensive training, examination to ensure mastery of the mystery, professional standards enforced through self regulation of the profession, and a closed shop so that you need the consent of the other practitioners to be able to practise. There are many other trades or crafts with similar tendencies. Indeed, much government regulation encourages this craft or mystery approach. The medieval gilds are alive and well, and live in many an EU regulation.

Nurses in the UK now need higher educational qualifications, adopting many aspects of the professional approach. Finance specialists now have to pass exams and submit themselves to both self regulation and statutory regulation. Plumbers, gas fitters and electricians are required to master the theory of their craft, and have to register and issue suitable paperwork to back up their successful contracts.

There is much good in all of this. It is reassuring to know the gas fitter understands the gas system and has had an extensive safety training before playing around with a potentially explosive mixture. It is good to know the medical practitioner knows much more anatomy and chemistry than most patients. Good professional standards should ensure better work, and greater safety and efficacy. Part of being professional also used to mean you do not go on strike.

There are also dangers. The craft or mystery can commit itself to group think of a damaging kind. It is more dfficult for innovators, as the practitioners may be reluctant to change and hostile to new ways which threaten their remumeration or way of life. The aim of the profession maybe to raise charges as well as to ensure standards. Whilst decent remuneration is to be encouraged, a lack of price competition when fees or charges are high is not helpful to the customer. Professions can make large and damaging mistakes which are enforced as best practice for years. Which doctors would now defend purging, or the use of mercury?

Parliament often debates whether more crafts and mysteries need Statutory as opposed to self regulation. Keen regulators demand statutory, implying that all self regulation is the soft option. As often, these debates muddle the truth. All crafts and professions face a mixture of both Statutory and self regulation come what may. A Finance specialist who wants to cheat may be held back  by the thought that the criminal law would put him in prison if he stole client money more than by the impact on his position in his profession. The Doctor planning a dangerous procedure that may kill the patient may be held back by criminal law sanctions as much as by the possible threat of professional discipline. All professions and crafts are under the general law of the land on protecting people and property anyway.

What is true is that if people wish to be treated as professionals they need to demonstrate a professional approach. The old fashioned professsional never complains, works when they have to in the interests of those they serve, and does not go on strike. The true professional behaves well at all times as a matter of pride, not because there are laws and regulations.

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80 Comments

  1. Alte Fritz
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    The final sentence sums it up. A definition of professional conduct was to put the client’s interests ahead of his own. A professional would advise the client against a damaging course of action which might prove lucrative to him.

    With status came privileges and with those came abuse and a creeping barrage of demands for statutory regulation. Regulation has become a career in itself. Regulate dentists this year and solicitors the next. The result is a regulatory culture which has no deep understanding of what is regulated and certainly no notion that the maintenance of professional standards requires a carrot as well as a stick.

    At one time, a lawyer would rush to the client’s aid without question or delay. If he he now does so before signing the client up to a ream of paperwork, he risks regulatory sanction and no payment.

    • MickC
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink

      I entirely agree with your comments. Professionalism has been destroyed. An ethos cannot be replaced by regulation.

      • Mike Stallard
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Wrong model!
        The essence of being a professional is trust. You are paid a salary and trusted. Doctors ask people to take all their clothes off so they can examine them. Teachers are trusted with young girls who quite often are very vulnerable. Nurses are trusted with washing and cleaning up after people. Lawyers are trusted with people’s most intimate secrets. Bankers are trusted with people’s life savings.
        The professional gets a salary. That means he/she is paid to be trusted. They are not just paid by the hour with overtime.
        They actually live their jobs. Just like MPs.

        What seems to have happened over the last decades is the introduction of a factory system into the professional world. Hospitals have production lines. Schools even look like factories. Law courts have been rebuilt to work production lines too. Parliament has been bypassed to make the process of transmission from Brussels much more efficient by statutory instrument. And so on.

        The two just don’t mix. Factories depend on producing a standard product which is checked and rechecked. The operatives guarantee that and are paid to produce it. At the top are managers whose job it is to meet targets.

        Get used to the times! They have already changed. Do not be a Luddite!

  2. norman
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s fair to say professionals should never strike. There may be circumstances where they feel they are being placed in a position e.g. working excessive hours, that puts patient safety in danger so are not doing it for selfish reasons.

    What it is fair to say is that if a light is shone on GPs pay and pensions the general public will be completely baffled, and not a little angry, at the reasons why they feel the need to go on strike and put people’s lives at risk. OK, that’s melodramatic but so is striking over a meagre increase in what is one of the best pension schemes in the world.

    Considering all the benefits in pay and conditions (think flying in foreign doctors with poor English at the cost of thousands for weekend cover) they derived under Labour and the ‘agenda for change’ programme you’d think there would be a little give and take. It’s not a one way street where tax payers are squeezed tighter and tighter to provide ever more benefits to public servants.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    The professions are largely a racket, the main aim is to create a monopoly of supply, charge excessive fees and restrict access to the profession. They are just like the old print unions or dock workers but far far worse.

    Solicitors are for example able to charge perhaps say £30,000 plus vat for acting as executor, administering a trivial will when all that was required was filling in a form or two and transferring some shares to the two issue and conveying a house. They do not even do this they use a broker and an accountant with high fees too. Perhaps just an hours work for their junior or secretary.

    It is common almost standard for some dodgy Solicitors to act in their personal interest and not the clients, encouraging pointless litigation or disputes (in divorce for example) that are in no ones interests but the lawyers. The self regulation is not acceptable. The rule that sometimes forces companies to employ one or often more in court is also wrong. The whole legal system seem to be designed entirely for the enrichment of lawyers not the interest of the public. Slow, uncertain, almost random in outcome and absurdly expensive with lots of demarcations and gate keepers – ideal for the profession but no one else. Designed by lawyers for lawyers.

    Never have a solicitor as an executor written into your will seems the best approach to me just some one honest who can take advice as needed.

    The financial services industry manages to cream off most of any return they make in complex (and often very disguised) charges so you often make none while usually delivering less return than a random selection of shares would have. This is helped by things like ISA and Pensions by giving tax breaks separate the client from his investments somewhat. Then we have Equitable life, the endowment racket, the loan protection mis selling of pointless insurance.

    The no win no fee or heads you win tales you do not lose, in wrong in principle and should be killed dead.

    In Medicine there is no real need to have a doctor to do say knee or cataract operations just someone with the relevant skills in that area. They need efficient factories with people skilled with the skills they need for their part of the process. The drug companies and their huge influence over doctors are also often a menace to people’s health.

    Gas fitters often abuse their monopoly position to gain extra work and are in my direct experience often just totally dishonest, fitting parts that were not needed or even just claiming to have done so and charging for them.

    We now even to have qualifications to look after children. What is needed is someone sensible, bright and interested not someone dim with silly a piece of paper and some PC training from somewhere or other.

    Countless other example I could bore everyone with.

    • Bazman
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 6:30 am | Permalink

      I would agree with some of this. Solicitors fees for buying a house are just contributions to the middle class social security system. Humans are a bit like gas boilers in the fact that some repairs can be made easily, but a large amount of skill and background knowledge is also required as disaster can occur as you dig yourself deeper into the problem. Intermittent faults on any system are particularly difficult to fathom and often it is a case of just changing parts until the fault is located. British Gas are having a laugh selling insurance and then trying to sell you a new boiler when the insurance is required. Get a quote from them and then find out how much your local gas fitter will charge often for better work.
      This factory approach to medicine is a foolish idea. An operation on a fit 18 year old man would be much more hazardous on a 80 year old woman. A race to the bottom is not the answer.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

        You say “An operation on a fit 18 year old man would be much more hazardous on a 80 year old woman indeed it is”.

        Similarly building a 747 jumbo is not the same as building a Harrier jump jet but that is not an argument for not having an efficient factory to deal with them both.

        • uanime5
          Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

          It would have to be a very flexible factory to be able to build both a 747 jumbo and a Harrier jump jet, along with any other type of plane that the client wants built.

          You’d be surprised how much medical knowledge you need to be able to operate on any type of patient. Even if you’re always doing the same operation.

        • Bazman
          Posted June 23, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Thats right. It’s called a hospital and can deal with many scenarios.

        • Bazman
          Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

          Military equipment such as ships and submarines are not built in the same shipyards lifelogic and I doubt military aircraft are or helicopters are either.

    • stred
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 6:43 am | Permalink

      My ex received a bill from her new young lawyer for £2k for the years work. The work consisted of reading and acting on one letter. The letterhad instructed him to cease action for the time being. She received an apologetic letter from the older partner that she complained to but the bill stood and she had to pay. In my view the advice she received previously was wrong and will now have to be challenged by another lawyer. Nice work for the boys- or more often girls. Professionals or thieves?

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Fairly common but I would not have paid. Worse is when they encourage you into expensive litigation, that you probably lose (or even if you win will not recover).

        Divorce is a huge racket in my experience (not direct experience thank goodness).

    • uanime5
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Why would you need a solicitor when you can purchase a Last Will & Testament Kit for about £12 and nominate your own executor?

      Most of the problems in divorce law occur because the division of assets is heavily weighted in favour of the wife, especially if children are involved. So the mother has a lot of incentive to try and get as much as she can, while the father is trying to keep as much as he can. Reforming the divorce law and family court so that the division of assets is more equal would fix most of these problems. I’d recommend the French system that places the interests of the child above that of the parents and prevents one parent from relocating to another part of the country and taking the children with her.

      In my opinion the legal system is most random when juries are involved. Professional judges tend to be more consistent.

      No win, no fee was introduced to replace legal aid where the lawyer would be paid whether they won or lost. Removing it would deny justice to the poorest in society.

      You can’t replace a doctor with a medical technician because the breadth of knowledge doctors have allows they to diagnose additional problems and cope with complications.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    The simple fact is, money can corrupt some people.

    The more money that can be made, the greater the temptation to put money first.

    Because you are a qualified professional, it does not make you exempt from corruption.
    In addition it does not stop corrupt people, pretending to be professionals with fake qualifications, to reap greater rewards.

    Self regulation by professionals within the industry/profession, is usually the first step at control, but can lead to a closing of the ranks by that profession against their customers/clients/patients.

    The final sanction is the rule of law, and the simpler the better.

    Due to our complicated laws we sadly also get some corrupt people manipulating the law to their own financial advantage as well.

    There is no perfect system.

    Many honourable people work for little financial reward.
    Some simply want to do as little as possible, for as much as possible.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      “There is no perfect system”

      I agree but the current one is not even close and is heading in the wrong direction, creating more demarcation, more jobs for parasites, and more artificially protected “professions” to exploit the public. Often done in league with government and the EU due no doubt to pressure groups.

      Why for example do we have a higher ISA limit for the more profitable (for the industry) share investments rather than cash – who decided on that and why?

      Who forced HIPS on us and the silly energy certificates and over the top gas regulations and why follow the money and the lobby groups I suggest? There is no sensible reason for them after all.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

        Should you wish to sue a professional the cards are also cleverly stacked against you somewhat. The matter is likely to be judged by the standards of the profession concerned and you are likely to have to get other similarly trained professionals from that profession to give expert “evidence” against them.

        That and the absurd costs and uncertainties of the courts will probably put you off, regardless of the genuine merits of your case.

        • Bazman
          Posted June 23, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          Would this logic also apply to suing landlords or builders?

          • lifelogic
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

            No usually there the court are on the side of the litigant as they have to keep the money making system going and need litigants – in the interest of court and fee income.

          • Bazman
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

            I though they would not be. Must use different courts especially to turn over builders and landlords. I’d blame it on Europe and the conspiracy of the three main political parties who I have heard have secret meetings every month to ensure this state of affairs continues.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        Despite having good degrees in relevant areas I am now prohibited from wiring a new socket in my properties or even changing a fuse or a fan in my gas boilers, or changing a pipe or tap on my oil tank. This because I do not have the right NVQ certificate or some other bit of paper.

        How do such silly laws help anyone or increase efficiency? I used to wire new sockets in my house when I was 13 but now I cannot by law.

        They help trade bodies and the protected professions only.

        • Bazman
          Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          You are legally required to be ‘competent’. It is your fantasy that you cannot change a fuse/fan on a boiler or wire a socket. Without the correct certification such as GORGI. You can plumb in your own gas boiler even, but should anything happen you would be liable. Do tell us where you got this information.

          • lifelogic
            Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

            You are wrong – it is a criminal offence.

          • Bazman
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

            You are telling us that it is illegal to carry out a repair on your own gas boiler or change a socket in your own house?

          • lifelogic
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

            Bazman

            Yes

          • APL
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

            Bazman: “You are telling us that it is illegal to carry out a repair on your own gas boiler or change a socket in your own house?”

            Perhaps we have witnessed the light going on in a lefty brain.

          • Bazman
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

            You are seriously telling me I cannot change a socket in my own house? You are wrong. It’s illegal to alter an electrical circuit, such as adding a spur to a ring main, but replacing an existing socket or a celling rose is legal. In the same way as long as you are not plumbing in the gas you can work on your own boiler. In both cases as long as the work is inspected by a qualified person is OK. I personally would not tackle anything serious with gas or electricity, but small boiler repairs are not a problem.
            As ever you need to get real lifelogic and stop spreading propaganda to further your race to the bottom.
            One problem as a landlord is this inspection of appliances with each tenant. Seems a bit pointless if tampering is not evident.

      • alan jutson
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic

        The problem is those who make the regulation very often know little or nothing about the industry or profession that they are introducing regulation for.
        Thus we get complicated nonesense such as you have described.

        That is why we need simple and transparent rules and laws.

        The most obvious example is our Tax laws, how many pages does it now run to ?

        Is it 11,000 or more.

        But we still have individuals and Corporations paying little.

        Welfare Benefits is another example.
        Most people are totally unaware as to what is or is not available, other than some professional claimants who are in the know.

        We now have a situation where very few people can even fill in a Tax form without the risk of making an unforseen error, and thus leave themselves open to be fined.

        Whilst my Tax affairs are fairly simple, I pay my Accountant to do the work for peace of mind.
        I should not have to, but I do.

        • lifelogic
          Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

          It does not even really give you piece of mind they make plenty of mistakes and the liability is still on you if they do. At least you can show you tried your best though.

          Try ringing the revenue enquiry line with a complex tax question on your return for them – call five times with the same question – you are likely to get five answers – certainly you will get at least two!

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        You say “Old fashioned commentators say there are just two professions – medicine and the law”. The rest is glorified trade.

        Well it was not much more than a hundred years ago that Medicine was virtually a complete racket with “doctors” doing far more harm than good and with virtually no effective treatments or drugs at all at their command. It has come on rather well with the huge advances in technology and science since then and the speed of these advances are increasing every day.

        The legal profession in conjunction with governments, courts and law makers, on the other hand, have used the technology and the monopoly, mainly to make things pointlessly over complex, far more lawyers and yet it largely has gone backwards from the clients point of view (though fees have certainly not done so I notice).

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Well giving employees more rights and making it easier to sue bad employers has forced companies to improve their practices. Though call centres and most minimum wage jobs still need improvements.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-awful-soulless-workplaces-are-selfdefeating-for-the-boss-class-too-7873409.html

      • Bazman
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        The argument against this being that the employer is doing you a favour by employing you and giving work to peole. You are not doing the employer any favours as you can be replaced as and when required with only the state labour laws making it more difficult than it should be. Without the employer many employees would have no work at all. In fact many are to stupid to work for anyone else and no other employers would touch them. They are however feel free to look for another job, will not find one paying more with limited skills in this area. None of this is a threat of course, but merely a clarification of facts that employees have to bear in mind as employers have a business to run and any profits are invested back into the business creating more jobs as we do not need the burden of wealth. In fact I would go as far as to say the altruistic nature of many companies is bordering on charity. Looking after otherwise penniless peole work and giving confidence to be upstanding members of sociality and taking the burden off the state. Along with contributions to churches and charity tax cuts would be for the best. etc etc. ad lib.

  5. GJ Wyatt
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    The medical profession faces a monopsony employer in the NHS. There’d be no point to a strike if that were not so.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      Indeed

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      Were there any private patient appointments cancelled because the doctor was “on strike”?

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        No probably some extra ones I imagine. In my experience of consultants they earn more in their spare time (sometimes double) doing private work than they do on their day jobs. Unlike many lawyers I find the medical profession is pretty good and diligent in general – despite the NHS.

    • stred
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      Many NHS consultants double or triple their income with private work. What other employer would allow this? They are also allowed to award each other merit payments on the NHS.

      • uanime5
        Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        Yet the Government hasn’t outlawed this. It’s almost as if they want as many people to use the private sector as possible.

  6. JimF
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    This is a tough one because unlike in law the government holds a quasi-monopoly position as an employer of doctors and doctors hold a quasi-monopoly position as a high-entry barrier work group.
    One answer might be to allow doctors more of a free reign to take on private work which cuts in to their public sector work, whereby each hour of private work cuts the pay and pension of their public sector work. At the same time we would need to employ more doctors to take up the slack of the public sector work. We would then see, in a competitive market, how well the doctors’ claims stood up.

    • sm
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      How can self-employed GP’s go on strike?

      Why are they entitled to join a defined pension scheme guaranteed by government. How many other private self employed or privately employed individuals are allowed this?

      We need a maximum per capita state pension liability for public sector workers, say £1.6m (cap used for private sector tax reason). Any contributions above that should be invested in a money purchase scheme like the rest of us.

      Indeed it might be useful to prohibit unfunded promised pensions insisting that contractual promises are fully funded? The future privately employed taxpayer without similar pension protection should then not be in the position of funding pension promises made to individuals or specific vested groups.

      It may be useful to encourage the breakup of professional monopoly suppliers? or otherwise have mechanisms to force prices down or up if they are underused labour resources?

      Why for example if we have unemployed Doctors do we have waiting lists? Does the demand not exist? or is this price manipulation? Surely these ”unemployed” Doctors could be usefully employed at minimum wage or a supply driven rate in a state GP practice to give them valuable experience?

      Arguably this should apply to all protected labour markets, until of course they hit the minimum wage (but do check for those offshore loans schemes).

      I wonder how many other perhaps even GP’s , lawyers etc are taking advantage of those schemes. Who said ”Only little people pay tax”

  7. JimF
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Professionals cover all walks of life from academia through law, civil servants, business management, and the trades. It is more an attitude of mind than a set work vocation. Whether a builder, plumber, doctor, or aerospace engineer, lives on the one side and reputations on the other are put at risk by bad attitudes and bad practice.

  8. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Well said and congratulations on not using the term “industrial action” to describe withdrawal of labour but calling it what it should be known as, which is a “strike”. I spent my working life in manufacturing industry and find it annoying that many journalists and politicians denigrate it with those words. We need to encourage young people to see industry as a career worth pursuing but this is hardly helped when withdrawal of labour and causing difficulties for patients or customers is given this misnomer.

  9. David
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The “profession” of “climate scientist” seems to hold unto itself the right to exclude all outsiders from scrutinising what it does. With the collusion of previously highly regarded institutions such as the Royal Society and the journal Nature much scare mongering has been allowed to permeate. The result of behaviour unprofessional in the extreme (in the quest for more “research” funding) has cost billions in ineffectual windmills, etc. When the penny finally drops with the majority, this fraud will probably undermine a sensible approach to sustainability, which is still needed in a world that consumes so much, and cost us even more.

    (The Hockey Stick Illusion by Andrew Mountford is well worth a read)

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Well why don’t you become a “climate scientist”, then you’ll be able to scrutinise them as much as you want.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Indeed what will the the exit strategy for the main political parties and the BBC on the c02 huge exaggeration scare scam that they have injected in to our children’s brains and those of the dimmer adults.

      I assume they will just claim to have solved the non problem and move on.

  10. Brian A
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    An excellent post. Your final paragraph sums up accurately the behaviour we should expect from professionals. That this behaviour is now less common than it was reflects how professional attitudes have become undermined by excessive regulation and the target driven cultures endemic in our public services and the wider world.

  11. Electro-Kevin
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    The real question is whether or not the doctors have a case for strike action.

    The simple fact is that the levels of pensions on offer are publicly funded and now at unsustainable levels. So no – they don’t have a case and it’s evident that a good proportion of them know it.

    Generous doctor’s contracts are one of Nu Labour’s poisoned chalices bequeathed to the Tories.

    It is rare that a properly indentured worker – registered with a professional body – is underpaid. As well as insuring quality the main purpose of professional affiliation is to limit supply and drive up fees.

    The withdrawal of labour by private sector professionals is applied every day. Either in failing to return calls, turn up to give quotes or to give quotes so ridiculously high that they won’t be taken up.

    In most cases they don’t have to strike. They can simply pick and choose their work.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

      Actually at present state pensions are creating a surplus of several billion pounds for the treasury and according to a Government report the percentage of GDP spend on state pensions is going to decrease because of the changes that have already been made to the state pension. Lansley’s pension raid is little more than the Government trying to make public sector workers pay for the Government’s failure to restart the economy.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

        Do you have … evidence of this ?

        • uanime5
          Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink
          • Electro-Kevin
            Posted June 23, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

            Thanks.

            So is this saying that there is no pensions time bomb ?

            That people will be able to continue to retire young drawing 5x the size of pension that they put in bearing in mind we have a diminishing private sector ?

  12. James Reade
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Well I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that by your definition, I’m being professional today, John.

    More to the point though, I find it remarkably convenient that it’s professional for workers employed directly or indirectly by the government if they just do as they are told, if they just accept whatever the government hands down from on high to them. Very convenient coming from a politician who has the power to do that, being part of the government.

    The reality is striking is an option that rightly should be there for workers in order to increase their bargaining power in this rather one-sided set of circumstances. I often don’t agree with the reasons why workers go on strike, but I won’t begrudge them the right to do so. It’s simply their attempt to gain more bargaining power, something the other side has in spades by being the employer of their labour services.

    Why do we so immediately side with the employer against workers in these situations? Particularly since more likely than not we will be the worker in any such situation? All we’re ever observing is a bargaining process.

  13. A different Simon
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    “Old fashioned commentators say there are just two professions – medicine and the law. The rest is glorified trade.”

    What is amazing is that the distrust of people who work in trade which reached it’s pinnacle in Victorian times has continued to this day .

    No prizes for guessing what the prevalent former career of members of Parliament is .

    • APL
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      A different Simon: “No prizes for guessing what the prevalent former career of members of Parliament is.”

      Self abuse?

  14. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    Professional relationships are further influenced by the who pays. With the NHS, the customer receives the service “free at the point of use” and the State pays the professional for services rendered. So what is the correct relationship between those professionals and the paymaster?

  15. oldtimer
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    A welcome development in the past two decades is the need for regular professional updating. Less welcome has been an apparent increase in the bureaucracy at times to an excessive degree. I observed it when vocational qualifications were being given a big push in the late 80s/90s. In some vocations there appears to have been a shift of emphasis from the practical to the academic. Nursing is an example of this – to its detriment according to my wife who was and remains highly qualified in this field. Something that all professionals needs to remember, like any business, is that customers come first.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      So that the NHS didn’t need as many doctors Labour gave nurses better training so they could perform some of the roles of junior doctors. As a result the training of nurses became more academic.

  16. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    I smile at the thought of the doctor and lawyer practicing their profession and wondering how much longer it will take for their “repetition and exercise … too achieve mastery and fluency”.

  17. Robert K
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Statutory regulation is always a favourite of the statist, because the statist believes that the state knows best. The statist also believes that the state is the only force for moral good in the world and that its mission is to protect its citizens from venality of all sorts. Therefore, in the eyes of the statist, self-regulation is anathema because it relies on the goodwill of people and an assumption of free and voluntary exchange.
    The place in professions where closed shops are most likely to thrive are, of course, those most heavily regulated by the state – notably the legal and medical professions.

    • lifelogic
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      Banks and financial services too – but clearly some regulation is needed just good regulation of the right things for a change.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      I’d prefer a doctor or lawyer who had passed the legal requirements to become either, rather than someone who became a doctor or lawyer because their friends.

  18. lojolondon
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    I need to stand up for the doctors here –

    The union and the Biased BBC have repeated over again that 50% of doctors voted for a strike, what they intentionally did not tell you is the vast bulk of doctors (probably all the good doctors!) are not union members, and most of the members did not even vote. So only 8% of doctors went on strike.
    There was barely any effect on the public and most cancelled operations were cancelled as a precaution to ensure there would be overlap for emergencies, so it was pretty much like the teachers strike, massive over-publicity by the Guardian / BBBC.

    I believe that most doctors realise that retiring with a £1m pot and a £50k pa pension is a very fortunate position to be in and understand the need for some relatively small sacrifices.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      You’re not standing up for doctors; you’re standing up for the Government. You’d only be standing up for the doctors if the doctors were calling for their pensions reduced.

      • lojolondon
        Posted June 25, 2012 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        I am standing up for normal doctors, 95% of them went to work last week, their salaries were doubled under Liebour and they never complained about their pension because they are extraordinarily well off.

  19. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    “The old fashioned professsional never complains, works when they have to in the interests of those they serve, and does not go on strike.”

    What do you suggest the teaching profession should do then if politicians and the whole media are saying that their pension fund is in crisis and that contributions need to be increased to fill a black hole, but the actual truth is that their pensions scheme is a scheme which is in balance (with current contributions funding outgoings) – not a fund at all – and that suddenly massively increasing contributions will force people out of the scheme causing it to collapse.

    Professionals should strike when government is systematically lying and is actually behaving in a deeply ignorant and destructive way.

    They shouldn’t have to strike. Please remember the ATL had never been on strike in its very long history and most members were members because they explicitly do not want to strike.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted June 25, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      ‘Professionals should strike when government is systematically lying’. No, they should not. They should spent a lot of time and effort refuting the ‘lying propaganda’. For example, that is what Enoch Powell did when the Wilson government tried to blame the population at large for inflation. A strike is a breach of trust by anybody, but especially by ‘professionals’. You have full democratic rights; try acting responsibly.

  20. stred
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    The UK seems to be unique in allowing self reulated trade and professional organisations to write their own regulations covering their areas of work. For example, the Institute of Electrical Engineers and other engineering branches. The gas industry controls the design of installations and safety checks. The larger firms identify new markets, such as renewable energy get together with the civil servants and new codes of practice become the norm.

    Unsurprisingly, the UK seems to have the most expensive ways of providing such services, using the greatest amount of materials. Other countries seem to recognise the possibility that the people providing the goods may expand the quantity of such if they are allowed to set the standards. The regulations could be moderated in favour of the consumer if, perhaps, representatives of the persons who have to pay for the service were consulted along the way.

    I have found that the Institute of Structural Engineers were not interested in my complaint that consulting engineers designed three to four times as much steelwork as was necessary in a recent job and were then backed by LA engineers. Had I not insisted that they were wasting materials and money the work would have been done as designed. Everyone from consultants to building contractors would have benefitted financially. Most consumers do not even realise the over specification that goes on. Thankfully there are competent honest engineers to turn to.

    In my experience the amount of copper in electrical systems in France is about two thirds that in the UK. Plumbing systems in France use less than half the copper pipe. Solar heating and PV standardises roof mounted receptors with complicated control systems and tanks. In some southern countries, all that is necessary is a tank and panels which run directly to a gas boiler, which tops up the temperature if necessary. There is no need to pay for scaffolding and cleaning if the panels are put against a garden wall, but this is never done as planning laws only allow excemption for roof installation- the most visually intrusive and expensive to maintain. There are countless other examples, such as gas checks every year on room sealed boilers, which can only kill if the seals are disturbed- as happens sometimes during the checks.

    This money go round seems to happen because our Civil Servants have rings run around them and also because they are not interested in representing the consumer.

    • stred
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      If you are uncertain about some of the technical points on sensitive subjects such as gas safety, please cut these out and include the rest. My points are important and vast amounts are spent on overspecification in the UK. I have 40 years experience of this and know that many tradesmen and engineers agree with me and have told me their real opinions. The subject is always buried because so much expense is involved with whole industries depending on unnecessary work.

  21. Neil Craig
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    The way the BMA have been able to limit the intake of medical students for over 60 years & therby keep up salaries is a public disgrace. It shows exactly what is wrong with allowing guilds to monopolise trade. I strongly suspect that computerisation could provide more medical knowledge to a technician than all but the best doctors have memorised. But the medical monoply prevents us finding out.

    That about half of Parliament is lawyers may explain why the law is so extensive and complicated that only lawyers claim to understand it.

    • uanime5
      Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      If the NHS is so bad why isn’t the private sector providing an affordable alternative?

      Also computerisation won’t work unless you can categorise every possible symptom, and create a program than can distinguish between two diseases that have the same symptoms.

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 22, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        If the NHS is so bad why isn’t the private sector providing an affordable alternative?

        This is a very silly question. You are forced to pay for one but it is free at the point of use. How do you sell something for £1000 when next door the government is giving it away free using money they already stole off you. Also the doctors will not work for less than they can get from the NHS. So private companies cannot supply for free or nearly free like the NHS they would go bust.

    • stred
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      For some years the practical training of doctors at the end of their expensive university course has been disrupted by rules and restrictions introduced by HMG. I was amazed to read that this still has not been sorted out and that many of our new scarce doctors are clearing off to the States for the final years, where they earn more and are receive better experience. Helpful to keep number down though.

  22. Normandee
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Whichever way you look at it, I just see another trade union protecting bad doctors and exorbitant reward schemes.

    • Bazman
      Posted June 23, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      You would also see trade unions protecting cleaners and maintaining exorbitant reward schemes such as the minimum wage. lifelogics point about the NHS falls down on if your insurance runs out, then what? What if complications set in that cost to much? Guess what? The state will bail out the healthcare company with the NHS. The problem of dying is to big to fail.

  23. forthurst
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    The Labour government bequeathed a disfunctional Health Service, particularly in regard to doctors’ pay and conditions. It was entirely wrong to absolve GPs of a duty of care for their patients except during normal office hours. When doctors had the responsibility of ensuring adequate cover at all times, patients were safer. With an overgenerous pension system, doctors whose working lives are already foreshortened by the long period of qualification, are tempted to retire prematurely, this more so as a consequence of the irksome meddling of unskilled bureaucrats.

    The English language provides greater opportunities for qualifiying doctors to practice abroad whilst offering similar opportunities for English speaking third world countries to supply staff. This puts pressure on pay scales to ensure retention in this country of the majority of qualifying doctors whilst putting pressure on the GMC, which it has demonstrated precisely no intention of fulfulling, of ensuring that doctors from abroad are properly qualified to the standards we set ourselves and can speak good relevant English whilst immediately removing those whose malpractice reveals itself subsequently.

  24. Bernard Juby
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I am ashamed that my profession should even consider such a thing and even more ashamed of the BMA (which I had no time for) for backing it.
    It’s not professional! The argument is NOT with the patients.
    By the way the oldest “profession” is/was prostitution – equally practiced in a different way by many politicians – and nurses are trained technicians, should be called such and leave the “hands-on, tender lioving care” to the real nurses!

  25. Matthew
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    The term professional is too often used to describe well educated people who perform intellectual challenging work.

    Compare the actions of some medics, to those of soldiers going on patrol in Afghanistan add to that that many of those soldiers know that they face redundancy.

    I take the view that the term applies to anyone in society that operates with integrity, performs to the best standard that they are capable of achieving, is trustworthy and whose efforts benefit society. Who even when times are tough keeps their head down and behaves creditably.

    You can’t increase your IQ but the rest is all open to you.

    Anyone can be professional.

  26. John Orchard
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I should like to compliment my GP Dr Jonathan Lewis who rang me yesterday to advise me regarding my cancer treatment. I told him it was exemplary of him not to be on strike and he stated his patients came first not a strike. Labour in Gordon Brown caused the problem by his over the top wage rise and cutting of working practice so as to give some GP’s but not all to feel they are a special case, well, everyone is finding these hard times so get in the real World.

  27. Jon
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Consultant surgeon aged 59 and wealthy talking to a tree surgeon aged 67 and poor.

    Consultant surgeon
    “You shouldn’t be climbing up trees with a chainsaw at your age with your back problem, think about retiring, I am next year ”

    Tree surgeon
    “I wouldn’t have to if it wasn’t that I was paying for your pension. Got anything that will treat that pain?”

  28. uanime5
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I believe civil law may have a stronger effect on professionals than criminal law; mainly because it’s easier to sue someone for damages than imprisoned.

    Also professionals have a right to strike if their employer unilaterally changes their contract and refuses to negotiate. It’s not professional to accept such abuses of power.

  29. Bazman
    Posted June 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Bye! That was a professional strike. It was less professional than just …..Yeah..

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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