How are you getting on with the Christmas preparations? I think I have sent out all my cards, but I usually forget someone.
This year I have tried to get them in the post a bit earlier than usual because of the strikes.
When I went to the Post Office with a couple of parcels, the woman behind the counter told me there was little point sending them first class because the strikes meant that there was no way of knowing when the parcels would be delivered.
I must admit I send fewer and fewer cards every year. A lot of people I know have said they no longer send cards and instead make a donation to charity.
The teenager in our house can’t understand the concept of sending cards at all and thinks it’s a pointless waste of time and money. It’s perhaps a sign that another tradition may not survive many more generations.
But the ones I do send are important and are mostly to people I don’t see very often, so it’s an annual opportunity to share news and let those people know I haven’t forgotten them.
I rarely send anything else by post these days and I should imagine that goes for more and more people. I have recently been carrying out some administration on behalf of a relative. The banks I have been dealing with have accepted most documents electronically, whereas previously they’d have needed posting.
The more disruption to the service, the more people will find alternatives and therefore there will be less business for Royal Mail. It is surely in the interests of both sides to find a reasonable solution before more of the business is eroded.
Strike action is grim for everyone: employees, employers and the public. I spoke to a postal worker recently who said he hated the strike action and just wished things could go back to normal. I could see the toil it was taking and clearly not a decision taken lightly.
I know from personal experience that taking strike action is a scary thing to do. For many years I wasn’t a member of a union and I strongly believed we had a duty to the public to continue delivering a service regardless of whatever grievance we had with our employer.
But as time went on I realised that some injustices were worth fighting against and being in a union gave you the collective support to stand up to hugely powerful employers.
I only ever joined a strike on two occasions and felt awful for letting down our audience, but at the same time I felt the action was needed to protect the future quality of the service to our audience.
Sadly we have found ourselves in a vicious circle of discontent this Christmas.
Planning a rail journey is a thankless task at the moment. Rail strikes have been going on for most of the year. So much so, it almost feels normal to assume there won’t be trains running at weekends. Like the postal strikes, that’s a dangerous position to be in. If the travelling public get used to making alternative arrangements will they come back to the railway? With more and more people able to work from home, there will be fewer commuters and before we know it some routes will be deemed unviable.
Now nurses and ambulance staff are proposing to take action. We might be able to cope without a few trains and we can manage without a regular postal service for a while, but the thought of fewer emergency workers being available is deeply worrying.
We know how stretched the ambulance service is on a normal day; I dread to think what it will be like on strike days.
Everyone will have a different view on the rights and wrongs of striking. Each dispute has a common theme of pay, but there are individual arguments in each sector about working practices and modernisation. Those of us who are not directly involved will find it difficult to express a detailed opinion on whether the strikes are justified or not.
I have seen and heard vox pops, where the public are asked by journalists what they think, and most say they support health workers because they believe they are overworked and underpaid. Support for some of the other strikes is less clear.
Vox pops should be treated with caution though. When I was working in broadcasting they were encouraged because they added “real” voices. They had a place in providing a bit of variety and sometimes humour (who can forget Brenda of Bristol when asked about another election? “You’re joking, not another one?”).
But vox pops are usually gathered in a hurry and as a reporter you’d just be grateful that anyone stopped to give a comment. So those snippets of public opinion in a news report should never be considered a scientific survey.
One thing is certain; we are in yet another period of turmoil. Coming hot on the heels of the pandemic and the seemingly relentless political and economic chaos, it feels like a permanent state of unrest.
We’re all affected one way or another even if we’re not directly involved in the various disputes. We don’t know when Christmas cards and other post will get delivered, travel plans are more complicated and we can’t be sure about the response if we need an ambulance on strike days. I wish I knew what the answer was. There are going to have to be some major concessions on all sides sooner or later. Let’s hope the spirit of Christmas can bring about some peace and goodwill.
After another very challenging 12 months we all deserve a decent Christmas with family and friends. I hope, despite everything else going on in the world, you will be able to make the best of it and enjoy the festivities however you celebrate at this time of the year. Happy Christmas! Bye for now.