August 26, 2008

The Coast Guard has got it Invergordon

I'm just back form a little break further down the coast and it was packed, despite the weather. Lots of people and rather more London accents than I remember from last year. What these people might not have realised was that it was distinctly more risky than last year. The RNLI (which is a charity with no connection to the state what so ever) was out doing sterling work saving anybody that got into difficulties, but the coastguard where on strike. This isn't the first strike in the Coast Guard's history, it is the second. The first was earlier this year.

Labour and strikes go hand in hand, all the way back to the very first Prime Minister from the Labour Party, Ramsay MacDonald. During his brief term in office the entire Atlantic Fleet went on strike. The reason for the strike was that the government had run out of money and had cut their pay. For what seems manly to be bureaucratic simplicity everybody got their pay reduced by the same amount so then, as now, it was those on the lowest pay that to the biggest burden (in percentage terms) from the government not being able to balance its books.

rankold pay per daynew pay per day
CPO8s 6d7s 6d
Leading Seaman5s 3d4s 3d
Able Seaman4s 0d3s 0d
Ordinary Seaman2s 9d2s 0d

The bureaucrats at the Admiralty sent a signal to the Captains of the fleet to read out to their men in order to explain exactly why the cut was taking place, and why it had been done in that manner by taking exactly one shilling from everybody's pay. Most did not read it out, the strike was not violent and they had no desire to change that. I'm going to now show you part of the signal that the men of the Atlantic fleet mostly where not shown because it gives such a good insight into the workings of the bureaucratic mind, such that it is.

The revised rates of pay introduced in 1925 for ratings and junior officers where the result of the report of the Commitee on the Pay of State Servants in 1923, which expressed the opinions -

(a) that none of the Fighting Services err on the side of paying officers of the highest rank too much;
(b) that the pay of officers of the middle rank is not excessive, subject to such adjustment on the costs of living grounds as is already provided for in the regulations;
(c) that the pay of junior officers is more than is necessary or even fair to the rest of the community, and
(d) that the pay of the men is too high and should be reduced in correspondence with the wares paid in civil employment.

Particularly good are parts a, where the people drawing up the report and their contemporaries claim that they are if anything underpaid, and parts c and d. where the most junior (and therefore most remote from the bureaucracy) are considered the most overpaid. At this time the ratings could barely keep themselves and their families solvent, and midshipmen got 5s per day in 1918 (less than the senior ratings) which won't have changed much between then and 1931. As trainee officers they where expected to be able to keep themselves presentable as officers and that generally meant an allowance from their family's until being promoted. Neither could really be seen as getting too much money, unless you where a bureaucrat needing to make savings by cutting somebody's pay and determined that that somebody would not be you.


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