Letters: The chaos of strikes thrives when taxes rise and inflation undercuts incomes

·9-min read
A union flag in Cardiff - Getty Images
A union flag in Cardiff - Getty Images

SIR – The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England are being taught by the unions what happens when you over-tax people, permit inflation to rise well above wage increases and fail to show any evidence of the advantages of an economy unhampered by European bureaucracy and red tape. Chaos.

Alison Rhodes
Waxhaw, North Carolina, United States

SIR – No trade union with any effective bargaining power would accept a 3 per cent pay rise (with strings attached) when the Bank of England predicts that consumer prices will soon rise by 11 per cent. No responsible government would approve of a pay rise that would lead to even higher inflation.

A solution, proposed by Milton Friedman in 1974, would be an agreement to compensate for inflation retrospectively, in other words to agree that by this time next year there will have been a real-terms rise. If that were widely implemented, the forecast of 11 per cent might prove pessimistic.

Frank Fishwick
Bedford

SIR – To receive chemotherapy for breast cancer my daughter attends St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. She lives in Banbury and uses the excellent rail and Underground service.

This week, she travelled to London a day early to have her blood test necessarily taken within 24 hours of her treatment. She returned by the same excellent train service that evening to put her three children, six and under, to bed and waited until they were asleep to travel by road back to London to stay in a hotel to be sure of receiving her treatment next day.

After walking some way to Barts, she had her treatment and eventually drove home.

My daughter is motivated by her love for her children, her oncologist by her love for humanity – the RMT?

John Capper
Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The UK workforce is 32.7 million and rising. Again, according to the font of all knowledge Google, union membership is 6.66 million and falling.

Is this country really to be held to ransom by a minority mob? How I miss Margaret Thatcher.

Simon Perks
Poughill, Devon

SIR – If Network Rail publicised the outdated working practices outlined by Oliver Gill, no one could doubt that things must change.

It is not right, for example, that those working at Euston cannot be called over to King’s Cross if extra help is needed or that three men are required to do a job which could be done by one. This is madness!

Patricia M Spong
Newcastle upon Tyne

SIR – Oliver Gill’s report on archaic practices supported by the rail unions took my mind back 60 years, to my first experience of the world of work.

As a student, I had found vacation employment as a relief porter at Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow. I began in the pharmacy. On my second day, the department maid asked me to put a new head on her floor mop. I readily agreed, and was about to set to work when the brown-coated storeman (who I soon learnt was also the union shop steward) said sharply: “You can’t do that – that’s a joiner’s job!”

I thought he was joking, but no. He insisted upon the maid submitting a requisition to the works department. This was done, and just three days later a joiner appeared and the mop was duly restored to service.

This introduction to restrictive practices left a 17-year-old lad with a lifetime’s distaste for trade unionism.

John Holm Gray
Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

SIR – Despite the nostalgia for the 1970s and seasons of discontent, might it be possible to abandon “industrial action” to describe strikes?

Patrick Williams
Warehorne, Kent

Run-down Army

SIR – Restocking British military equipment should be a priority for the Government. I am appalled that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are cutting defence spending in real terms, and refusing to provide additional funds to replace the supplies given to Ukraine.

Spending on conventional defence equipment and personnel should now be 5 per cent of GDP. Nuclear weapons should be paid for separately by the Treasury, as was the case before George Osborne’s disastrous decision to change the funding model.

Martin Cakebread
Former Director, UK National Defence Association
Kenley, Surrey

SIR – Con Coughlin is right to highlight the need for additional conventional weapons to deter Vladimir Putin from risking further expansion in Europe.

However, the West burnt most of its conventional and tactical nuclear boats when it slashed defence expenditure after the Cold War.

The reality is that modern weapons take years to design, develop and bring into service. So by all means ramp up spending – but the next war, if it happens, will be fought with the weapons we have on the day.

Group Captain Alan Ferguson (retd)
Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – If further evidence were needed of how successive Tory governments have neglected the Army, we have it in the words of Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the Chief of the Defence Staff.

On Wednesday he told the Lords International Relations and Defence Committee that it could take up to 10 years before Britain is in a position to deploy a division with the capabilities to fight alongside American forces.

This puts the mockers on the Defence Secretary’s boasts about the independent deployability of our forces. For some years, the Army has been incompetently led, under-manned and poorly equipped. Where would front-line medical and logistical support have come from had it needed to deploy at scale abroad during the pandemic?

Patrick Chambers
Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire

Sensitive salutations

SIR – What is the correct form of address when writing a letter of complaint to a large organisation nowadays? I suspect “Dear Sir” is no longer acceptable.

Susan Coe
Perth

Gambling reform

SIR – As the Government’s White Paper on gambling reform approaches publication, any omission of a statutory levy on the industry would represent a serious failure to tackle gambling-related harm and reduce the 409 related annual suicides (estimated by Public Health England in 2021).

The current levy for research and treatment, tightly overseen by the gambling industry, allows them to control the messaging. Only with a statutory levy – instead of the current voluntary one – to fund independent research and NHS-led treatment can an evidence-based approach be initiated that will actually save lives.

Rt Rev Alan Smith
Bishop of St Albans

Rt Rev Donald Allister
Bishop of Peterborough

Rt Rev Martin Warner
Bishop of Chichester

Rt Rev Robert Atwell
Bishop of Exeter

Rt Rev Andrew Watson
Bishop of Guildford

Rt Rev David Walker
Bishop of Manchester

Rt Rev Vivienne Faull
Bishop of Bristol

Rt Rev Nicholas Baines
Bishop of Leeds

Rt Rev Libby Lane
Bishop of Derby

Where to wear phones

SIR – As an iPhone owner, I advise Bryn Hatch, who would like a jeans pocket big enough to hold one (Letters, June 22), not to try wearing a dress.

Ros Mankertz
Poole, Dorset

Smokers’ luck

SIR – As a child in the 1950s, if I saw an empty Woodbine packet (Letters, June 22) on the ground I would put my foot on it and chant: “Wee Willie Woodbine bring me good luck. / If you don’t I’ll tear you up.”

Of course, good luck didn’t happen and neither was the packet torn up.

Jennifer Hill
Haslemere, Surrey

No first-class post

SIR – I have been experiencing delays to receipt of first-class letters frequently and especially to letters posted on a Friday.

According to my postie, the local sorting office often has insufficient staff to deal with Saturday deliveries. First-class mail is no longer even likely to be delivered the following day, especially Saturdays.

First-class stamps cost more because the letters are meant to arrive next day. What percentage are delivered the following day? Why should customers pay a premium price for “next-day delivery” when it’s just as quick by second-class post?

John Bunner
Chipstead, Surrey

Too many crows and magpies in the garden

Zhang family stoneware ceramic Chinese head-rest with magpie, Jin dynasty (1115-1234) - Bridgeman
Zhang family stoneware ceramic Chinese head-rest with magpie, Jin dynasty (1115-1234) - Bridgeman

SIR – While the number of corvids, in particular crows and magpies, has increased in my garden, the number of songbirds has correspondingly decreased.

Perhaps readers could suggest how I can reduce the number of corvids to the benefit of songbirds.

Mark Venmore-Rowland
Darsham, Suffolk

Banks won’t accept paper notes to exchange

SIR – The Bank of England has put out a statement urging the public to exchange old banks notes for current ones within the next 100 days.

What it does not point out is that many bank branches now only accept cash payments via deposit machines, which have difficulty dealing with paper notes.

The local branch of my bank was unable either to exchange old notes for new or accept them as a deposit into my account, and so sent me to the post office.

Experiences of this type can be distressing for the elderly or those who live in the countryside and have few choices of bank branches or post offices.

Elisabeth Murray
London N20

SIR – Maie Osborn (Letters, June 20) writes that yet another branch of her bank is closing, thereby limiting support to its clients.

So many branches of all banks are closing throughout the country. Perhaps it is time to create a banking store with desks for numerous banks, with their representatives offering a personal service.

Banks need to pool resources for the benefit of their clients.

Tim Merritt
Devizes, Wiltshire

SIR – I downloaded the facial recognition option from my high-street bank’s app in order to verify payments (“Beware the dangers of a cashless society”, Comment, June 6).

Within minutes I realised that this was a ghastly mistake. It failed to recognise me on almost every occasion, and became a miserable hurdle rather than a help.

I rang customer services, eventually managing to get a very nice human, and explained my predicament. How did I get rid of it? Ah, he said, don’t shoot the messenger, but you have to go into the app, into biometrics, request deletion, and – you’ve guessed it – approve it by facial recognition.

Of course it wouldn’t work, so he had to fill in a form which took a further 15 minutes, and I was assured that within three to five working days the wretched facial recognition would be removed.

So much for progress.

Liz Beaumont
London SW19

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