I admit I have never been on strike. That is very largely because I have been self employed for 30 years and the need never arose during my relatively brief employment career.
The consequence of my chosen way of working has been that throughout the vast majority of my career I have been able to chose for whom I work, when, and, within reason, at what rate. If I have wanted to withdraw my labour I have been free to do so. If I did not like something I was asked to do, I could say so, and do something about it. If I simply did not like a client I could terminate the contract and keep going with the rest of my work, and have happily done so on many occasions.
I am aware of the enormous freedom that this has given me and I am very grateful for it.
I am also aware that much of what I have done in my career has been useful to those who have been willing to pay for it, but that it has not been essential. It hasn't been, dare I say it, a career of public service in the sense that many have such a career. I'd like to think the more recent campaigning activities have made a difference, but that's not the same as being essential.
Millions of people in this country provide essential public services. Many of them are going on strike on Thursday. They do not have the choices I have had in my career on who to work for, when, and for what client. Their work is essential. The service they supply is something we all depend upon. It changes lives in many cases. That's true of those not on the front line as well as those who are: such services depend upon team work.
Those people who do this essential work have been exploited since the financial crisis. Their pay has fallen by as much as 20% in some cases, by well over 10% in almost all cases. They have had no choice in most situations of changing employer: there is only one and that employer has chosen to place the burden of a financial crisis not remotely of these people's making on those who provide our essential services.
They have endured this burden but are now saying enough is enough, and I think they are right to do so. We cannot demand more of these people: they have given their all and been abused by ministers who like to lambast them whenever they can, sack them if at all possible, threaten to outsource them with reduced pay and conditions if possible, and generally deride them on all occasions.
It is astonishing that we have people left willing to work for our public services. We should be incredibly grateful to those who do.
And because they cannot choose who to work for, freely negotiate their pay, walk away when they do not like something, or tell their clients where to go, we should most certainly support their right to strike, which is a right much smaller than that most business owners enjoy every day of the year, which is something those business owners should remember before they criticise strikers this week as many will no doubt do.