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Public Employees and the Right to Strike Essay

“After a 60-hour strike that halted subway and bus service in 2005; a state judge penalized the Transport Workers Union by taking away its most powerful money-raising tool: automatic collection of dues from members’ pay checks.” (New York Times, November 2007)

   An incongruity due to establishment of new employment conditions or some other contention between the employer and his employees is referred to as a collective labour dispute. According to Eamets and Philips [2005], the United States constitution does not allow its citizens to conduct a strike. The government employees are encouraged to present their point of views to the government but no law permits them to form adversaries as bargaining envoys against it.

The laws from Britain that forbid the people to speak against the monarchy are still in practice by some American States. If an agreement is not feasible through debate, both the opponent parties are required to consult the communal mediator to avoid disarray at work sites. The employees in public sector are divided into three groups,

  • The public servants, who work as law permits on civil servants and have particular employment pledges,
  • The technical recruits, who work in the state institutions and district metropolis,
  • The temporary workers, working project based or for a limited time period.

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  According to ROTAL – Riigi- ja Omavalitsusasutuste Töötajate Ametiühingute Liit, [represents the interests of civil servants], at least the technical recruits and the temporary workers should have the right to strike. Conversely as declared by the Collective Labour Dispute Act, disputes between the labour and the employers must be resolved through the consultation of a moderator, deciding on a mutual agreement. Strikes are barred in the following associations:

  • “Government agencies and other state bodies and local government; and
  • The defence forces, other national defence organisations, courts and fire fighting and rescue services.” (Eamets and Philips, 2005)

  The divergence amid the private and the public management concerning the collective bargaining is quite intense. The public sector comprises of political decisions by the government affecting everyone. They also benefit from more privileges and benefits as compared to the private sector employees. As declared by the Massachusetts’ Governor Calvin Coolidge in 1919 when he broke the Boston police strike, the civil workers have no right to strike against the public. The same thoughts were voiced by President Roosevelt in 1937 “A strike of public employees is unthinkable and intolerable.” (Stopping Public-Employee Strikes, 1966)

Governor Bill Ritter declared an administrative command that rules out any strikes by civil servants, which encourages the employees and labour unions to join together and create harmonious working conditions. However concern was voiced by the State Representative Bob Gardner, specializing in government regulatory law; that legislation should be introduced to prohibit strikes in law as they may surface after this new order. Since the unions may try to negotiate for higher reimbursements possible producing unsatisfactory results for the union leaders thus conduct a strike. (Lawmaker: Public Employees Have Right to Strike, Despite Ritter’s Order, 2007)

  This fact creates problems in deciding whether to allow the workers to strikes or not, it is human nature to be unsatisfied with the present circumstances and strive for more. In the early years, federal employees were not allowed even to join unions or groups that may sponsor strikes otherwise deal with one year imprisonment. It is the temperament of labour unions to ask the employers much more than they are willing to partake, which then precede strengthening of perceptions and then eventually the strike. Increasing strikes will result in greater costs of state and local government and the taxes as well.

    The debate accumulated during the year 2004 that all civil workers should not be prohibited to advocate their rights through strikes. The proposal from the trade unions that request for some modification in the legislation regarding the Collective Labour Dispute Act, making the public employees rights issue a notorious one globally. (Eamets and Philips, 2005) Even today the arguments still continue, the concern being that the public suffer most by the workers’ strikes, which ceases to provide them with the essential services. At the same time according to the employers, it acts as a major threat to the public finances and the government policies. Public employees like doctors, nurses, teachers and industrial workers hold power to raise an opinion against their employer which might force him to entertain their demands.

   All this creates a critical issue in employment regulations; how to achieve a bargain with the workers effectively, catering to their demands and at the same time achieving hundred percent labour. Often the strike becomes the sole way to gain attention of the higher authorities like the government. However it must be stated that the worker has his own rights and requirements, there should be proper bargaining conducted to assure a sound working system. The workers should be allowed to protest or display their demands, if an individual is working hard to fulfil his employers stipulate, he or she holds the right to be treated properly so as to encourage and compliment his work standard. If the fundamental rights of labour are being considered, there will be no need for calling strikes in the future.


Raul Eamets and Kaia Philips,”Controversy over civil servants’ right to strike” [6 January 2005] <http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/2004/12/feature/ee0412103f.htm>

“Lawmaker: Public Employees Have Right to Strike, Despite Ritter’s Order in Unions” [7 November 2007]

“Stopping Public-Employee Strikes” [14 January 1966]<http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,835012,00.html>

OSCAR A. WEIL and ORVILLE V. BERGREN “The right to strike: Should teachers get or do they have it?” [16 April 1977]

WILLIAM NEUMAN, “M.T.A. Asks for Restoration of Automatic Dues Payment” [2 November 2007] New York <http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/02/nyregion/02strike.html?_r=1andoref=slogin>

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