back to article Airline strikes, unions outraged

Australia’s skies were plunged into chaos over the weekend when Qantas CEO Alan Joyce released an edict to ground all domestic and international flights in response to a protracted battle with the unions representing his staff. The unprecedented move crippled the Australian aviation and travel industry and caused widespread …

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Holmes

Background

To give a broader understanding of the situation:

QANTAS is having a hard time competing for international flights, especially against Asian airlines operated by our near neighbours, as they pay lower wages etc. To make that arm of the business profitable, they want to move maintenance of international flights offshore, and possibly hire pilots at lower wages from outside Australia. This is for international flights only, the domestic arm of the company is making money.

Th unions for months now have been complaining, saying they want guaranteed jobs for life, plus pay rises. So they've been striking every few weeks, disrupting people for a day or two at a time.

QANTAS won't agree to the 'job security' clauses the unions want, as they need to be able to fire people and restructure when market forces require it. Otherwise the company will go belly up and everyone loses their jobs. But the unions want their members to be 'unsackable'.

The CEO has had enough, and stopped flying so bring the issue to a head. Already the government has stepped in to resolve the situation (as we knew would happen), telling both parties to get on with working. This is in QANTAS' favour, as they retain the ability to manage their company rather than have unions run it.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Background

After the way QANTAS handled the problems with the Trent 900s in the A380s (running to the press before any investigation, shooting their mouth off without any facts and so on) then all I have to say is fuck them. The sooner they go out of business the better.

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Oh please

"Th unions for months now have been complaining, saying they want guaranteed jobs for life, plus pay rises."

Ridiculous! Just who do they think they are, incompetent education administrators?

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The union worker is the really the enemy and in this case they should be all fired for extortion.

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Mushroom

He's played the unions perfectly.

He's pushed the company into the void, knowing that the Australian Government cannot afford for it to collapse. With the weight of the Government, Fair Work Australia has demanded that the aircraft be put back in service and that the unions cannot take any more strike action.

I believe he's check-mated them. They can't do any more disruptions without breaking the law and having severe penalties; and Qantas is back in the air.

But what about their brand? I'm sure he's thought this through far beyond just re-launching aircraft.

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Bronze badge

Brand was already hit

The brand was already taking a hit with the random strikes which was causing a huge reliability issue.

This was pure awesomeness.

The CEO picked the day and time of the "attack" on the unions which I can bet you means they limited the financial exposure as much as possible. By getting the government involved to force the unions back to work, with no more service interruptions, the CEO is essentially restoring both investor and consumer confidence that the schedules will be met.

Absolutely beautiful.

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Silver badge

Cool. Someone with a clue called out a union ...

Unions are nothing more than a secondary level of middle-management.

Don't believe me, union-card-holder? What kind of car do you drive? What kind of car does your union-boss drive? What kind of car does your manager drive? Do the math.

Unions are a rotten holdover from the Victorian age. At best.

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Thumb Down

Okay, Jake ...

... what is *your* solution? You are surely not going to tell me that the work environment is such that workers do not need protection from employers, many of whom seem to regard their employees as less valuable than the company cat. Employment law doesn't cut it - it is a case of "complain and you are out anyway", and there are so many ways that the employers (the ones with the money to retain lawyers) find to rip the heart out of employment legislation. Employees need a body with big pockets to ensure they have equality of arms.

Equally, unions ensure that people do not get paid differently for the same work without there being a clear structure (length of service on the increment scale, for instance).

Personally, I know that I am at more risk from employers than I am from unions, and I just wish that they had more teeth.

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Until I worked in a large company I had no time for unions...

Then I learned better... In small businesses there's a direct relationship between the work force and the decision makers, and there's no need for a Union. In large businesses the decision makers are completely divorced from the actual workers and there is no influence from the people who do the work on the executive. Ultimately a business is there to fulfll a social need for cusomers, staff and owners, and if they aren't all getting afair deal then something is wrong.

Look at the current situation. We have an executive class throughout the western world which is paying itself ever increasing salaries whilst freezing pay for the people who do the real work. There's an unhealthy vicious circle where the only people who have any kind of check on executive pay are themselves recipients of executive pay and so have no interest in checking it. Our investments (we all have investments, if only pensions) are being plundered to pander to the executive class' greed and our wages are being plundered to pander to their greed too.

This is not a stable situation: I believe we are approaching the sorts of level of imbalance that historically has resulted in revolution. So there needs to be some kind of check/balance on the executive class. The business owners/shareholders are incapable of supplying it, so the only potential source is labour organisation - unions - and not just for manual workers but for all the productive workers who aren't on the executive circle jerk. It doesn't help, of course, that so many union organisers are steeped in ridiculous socialist attitudes that should have been consigned to history, but its all we've got.

What's the alternative? I fear that if things go on as they are we will be getting into major disturbance and social problems, and maybe even the revival of socialism. For sure the damn executive behaviour is enough to make you think the damn socialists have a point...

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Anonymous Coward

"Do the math"

He's American (or illiterate): he thinks unions = communism.

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Anonymous Coward

Logic interupt.

"I know that I am at more risk from employers than I am from unions..."

Yeh...but when was the last time your Union employed you, paid your wages, paid into your Pension etc etc.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh be still my aching sides

"......Ultimately a business is there to fulfill a social need for customers, staff and owners....."

Ultimately a business is there to MAKE MONEY.

As a by-product, it may fulfill a social need for customers, staff and owners. It may even decide to be a morally upstanding company and only do business in a socially responsible way, but if it does not make money, the only social need it will fulfill is as a write up in the history section down the local library.

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"He's American (or illiterate): he thinks unions = communism."

Right, because as an American who grew up in a union town back when , I know that unions = fascism.

Seriously, this was back in the 70s when things were ... very similar to today, come to think of it. I remember my dad's union went on strike for nine months and finally agree to a raise of five cents an hour. And they only agreed then because the company made things for the military and supplies were getting low. And about half of the strikes we had to endure back then were union-union strikes. Another union, run by a different mob family, kept trying to muscle in.

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@Ac/Aching Sides

You're confusing the means with the ends.

Why does a business want to make money? So they have lots of pretty shiny things in the store?

Money is a means of exchange, nothing else.

A business makes money because the means of exchange provides social benefits in terms of improved lifestyle for customers, staff and shareholders/owners.

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Anonymous Coward

Jake? Anti Union?

Jake is anti union everyone, stop the press... Oh, no, don't, it's just the same old "Jake is really great and everyone else sucks so sod-em" attitude that we've come to expect.

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@Intractable Potsherd

Do you REALLY think that corporations exist purely to destroy employees?

The mind boggles. Methinks you are well named. Poor little you.

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@AC 11:14

Unions aren't communism ... but they share a common goal, that being make a few fat-cats wealthy on the backs of the workers. Kinda like capitalism.

Not that it's politically correct to point out, of course.

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@AC 13:04

The only thing I'm "anti" is human stupidity ... Unfortunately, as Einstein succinctly put it "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

This is nothing new in the great chain of human events ... Euripides commented "Talk sense to a fool, and he calls you foolish."

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Anonymous Coward

Silly me

I thought you were using the term 'social benefit' for more than just enabling individuals to own pretty shiny things, but since you define it THAT way.......

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Unions ware WORLD WIDE PROVEN CRIMINAL ORGANISATIONs THAT NEED TO DISOOVE PERIOD.

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Trollface

Remember

Don't feed the trolls

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Name a single union that is not corrupted to the point that all it's members sjhould be jailed for life....... until need, union workers must be fight on alll fron until they all under control. these dangerous VIOLENT CRIMIALS (union workers) must be controled.

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Anonymous Coward

Hired thug

The guys been brought in to destroy the unions.

That's why he's being paid so well.

'QANTAS don't want us', as we used to say as kids.

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"The guys been brought in to destroy the unions."

You are saying this as if it's some kind of bad thing...

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Joyce is going to need that pay rise...

Number one rule of any business, is don't piss off your customers. They might not come back.

Rule number two, is don't piss of your employees. Not only will they not come back, they'll bite your arse before they jump overboard (or are pushed as the case may be).

Good luck with your pay rise Joyce, after pissing off both your employees AND customers, you're going to need it to cure your arse that should now be the consistency of mince meat.

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Happy

I agree with you in principle, however...

The fact that he has caused such massive disruption implies he has a lot of captive customers who cant make other arrangements. Dunno what the market for is like for air travel in Oz, but it sounds quite limited and very much a sellers market.

In the current economic climate, (caused by people not entirely unlike him), who is going to resign? Of course, he *may* have issues a few years down the line when people are freer to jump ship, but as senior Managers seem to play musical chairs every few years or so, he probably wont care by that point.

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Silver badge

What a Tosser

Joyce has gotten so fired up in his quest to defeat the unions that he is willing to strand 10's of thousands of his companies own paying customers in far flung places around the world and seriously inconvenience many thousands more.

How much sympathy does he think this extreme overreaction will garner amongst the general public?

Does he seriously think that he can suddenly shut down the entire airline and spin that into somehow being the fault of the unions?

I expect he will be out the door (with a golden parachute no doubt) within a month when the Qantas board come to understand the magnitude of this situation.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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Militant Propaganda

I've had many hours imprisoned in airports ahead of long haul (9-12 hour) flights because the unions thought I was "leverage" in their pay negotiations.

As an innocent member of the public that was targetted and injured by the unions I can say Joyce has my 100% support.

What sympathy do the unions have with the general public? The unions are a gang of bullies who go around taking hostages and then demand a ransom for their release. It is unconscionable behaviour that has made the word "union" a dirty word.

Maybe, once, unions supported their members. Provided legal support in employer/employee negotations and unfair dismissals.

Modern day unions, however, have all the workplace safety and unfair dismissal support they need through reems of regulation. So now they use their numbers to bully innocent people in their quest for never-ending demands.

Union members are anti-nationalist. They are anti-public. They hate you, they hate me, and they hate their employer. They are like the modern-day immigrant that is ungrateful for all their host countries give them; complaining and demanding more, more, more. A disgruntled immigrant doesn't "go home". A disgruntled union member doesn't "change jobs". They both whinge and complain. But union members take it one step further and HURT INNOCENT PEOPLE.

Qantas did what was necessary to survive. And I think the travelling public will be pleased that unions have now been prevented from disrupting their journeys and the never-ending uncertainty of strike threats.

If you support unions you are selfish and care not for rights of ordinary people. You just view ordinary people as "leverage".

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Thumb Down

"Does he seriously think that he can suddenly shut down the entire airline and spin that into somehow being the fault of the unions?"

Why not, the unions have been shutting down the entire airline and spinning that into being the fault of the management...

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Wow! A simple thumbs up just seems completely inadequate here.

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There is a big difference

between rolling 1hr stoppages and stranding people in airports around the planet but don't let that get in your way of sticking it to the unions.

P.S. I have never: belonged to a union, been on strike or voted labor. I have however always thought for myself rather than cheerleading whichever arsehole happens to be closest to my personal political bent regardless of the actions that arsehole may take.

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@Anon 16

"Modern day unions, however, have all the workplace safety and unfair dismissal support they need through reems of regulation. So now they use their numbers to bully innocent people in their quest for never-ending demands.

Union members are anti-nationalist. They are anti-public. They hate you, they hate me, and they hate their employer.

...

If you support unions you are selfish and care not for rights of ordinary people."

You know, just for one horrible moment there I thought your post was going to dissolve into some sort self-opinionated, fact-free, over generalized rant - mainly dependent upon your omniscience with regard to the motivations and circumstances of millions of other humans - rather than the eloquent and insightful exposé of the world in it's true form - black and white.

Close one.

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Anonymous Coward

"Does he seriously think that he can suddenly shut down the entire airline and spin that into somehow being the fault of the unions?"

Unions are a waste of space and a lot of union bosses seem far out of touch with the actual workers (high salaries, eating out at post restaurants etc.). Labour needs to be more flexible - no-one can have a job for life - the decision is be more flexible or lose more jobs overseas and end up unemployed.

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high salaries

A quick glance at the anti-union site run by 'Union Facts' shows the salaries at the top tiers of US labor unions running commonly in $300 thousand to $200 thousand range, with Randy Weingarten of AFT topping the few I checked at $428 thousand, and Lawrence Cohen of CWA at $202 thousand. These are not salaries that I myself would turn down, but they are hardly comparable to CEO salaries. It is unlikely that Weingarten is making 20x the salary of a newly hired teacher in the poorest district the AFT represents

But as for 'posh restaurants', who knows?

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Surely shareholders can take this guy to court for breach of fiduciary duty. He has seriously damaged the profitability of the company and damaged its reputation, both of which have an impact upon the share price...

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Possibly, but perhaps it could be argued that the union was killing the company and that it HAD to be broken for the company to compete. Whether that's true or not I can't say, but I would but the lawyers would find evidence to support it ... just as the union lawyers would find a way to disprove it, of course.

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Pint

Please disregard the part after the ellipsis. Apparently I'd had a Liquid Lunch, possibly a Liquid Breakfast as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Shrewd move

So anyone booking a flight with QUANTAS now has the comfort of knowing there cannot be a strike, as Fair Work Australia has ordered the unions to take no further industrial action.

This guy's reading the same play book as Willy Walsh at BA, both having Management degrees from Trinity Dublin.

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FAIL

Well earned

Straight from the "Slasher Walsh Book of Industrial relations" (another Aer Lingus axeman).

I'm sure he's worth his 71% pay rise to make sure he gets rid of the Aussie riff-raff and replace them with good, honest, hard-working Malays and Indians.

Keep up the good work!

Sorry Boldman but I'd like to congratulate Mr Joyce on his $2 million dollar bonus confirmed at the shareholders' meeting (the day before he grounded QUANTAS) - alright he got a few boos, but it was confirmed.

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Anonymous Coward

Anti-union hypocrits

I presume you refuse to take annual leave etc that unions worked to establish?

No, didn't think so.

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Anonymous Coward

71%

What exceptionally good stuff did he do to earn that?

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Thumb Up

Good on him, I personally can't stand Unions

Look at what the unions are doing here in the UK - their response to an economy in dire straights is to try and cover the assses of their precious members at the cost of the entire country. I have no sympathy whatsoever for public sector workers who are suddenly looking at losing some of their absurdly OTT benefits (e.g. NHS sick pay - 6 months @ full salary, erm, seriously?!?) in lieu of the fact that the country cannot afford to keep paying such ridiculous expense for what is, at the end of the day, just someone doing their damn job. They aren't special...

In a non-unionised job, you get on with your job, and if you don't like the conditions, leave to find another, or take the employer to tribunal where it is decided if they acted fairly or not. People who hide behind a union who are demanding that they as an individual are treated 'fairly', are in fact demanding to be treated like royalty compared to their non-unionised counterparts.

Whilst I agree with the sentiment of the Unions, they represent a major fail with their current mentalities, and are a nasty reminder of less enlightened times

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Anonymous Coward

@Tony

Not so, I worked for RBS and Unite did so little to protect their members from loss of pension rights and redundancy due to off-shoring of jobs that various people were seriously thinking about asking for their money back.

Also remember - rights given up in times of hardship are rarely given back in the good times. Anyway, if you accept a job, such as in the NHS, you accept it based on the remuneration package, taking benefits away is not free and six months sick doesn't actually sound that outrageous, many companies give similar.

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>In a non-unionised job, you get on with your job, and if you don't like the conditions, leave to find another.

In a monopoly (NHS) or effective monopoly (one mine for the whole town) this argument doesn't hold water

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Stop

@ Tony

Dumbass. There are many low-end minimum wage workers in this world, who now work for companies that seem to take the attitude of "if you don't like the conditions, get lost, there's always somebody else". Employee access to tribunals? Unlikely, for not only are they likely to lose their jobs, but such means require backing - it doesn't happen for free. This is a world in which directors allocate cushy pay rises while telling the employees that one percent over minimum wage is all the company can afford and even that is a generosity... that doesn't sit well alongside new company cars, new laptops, etc, etc.

I can see why some hate the unions. "Job for life" is unrealistic in this day and age, and the '70s in Britain was pretty miserable. But the benefit of a union (perhaps a more restrained one) is to attempt to give a voice to an employee who is otherwise powerless. When employees held meetings with management and quoted employment law, it was pretty much ignored. Now the unions are getting involved, the company is listening. Sure, it is fighting one type of fear with another, but what other alternatives are there?

Perhaps if you have a glowing CV, or can do something special and/or esoteric, then you can easily drop your job if you don't like it and find another. This isn't so for Average Joe who often feels stuck in their job due to the rising unemployment and the difficulties of finding another job. Given, of course, the supply of employees available, a shrewd employer can slowly make conditions worse and worse. And why not? "Put up or piss off, you're replaceable" is their outlook these days.

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FAIL

What is the job worth?

Quite frankly, if it's a minimum wage job then it stands to reason that there are thousands and thousands of "qualified" people that can perform the job.

Qualified in this case usually means "can communicate in the requisite language", "can learn the very limited required skill set".

In other words, you should earn exactly what the job is worth and no less. Just about anyone can be taught how to cook a hamburger in a few minutes. Does this mean that person should have an equivalent pay and/or benefits package to a district manager responsible for advertising/sales/etc for 20 stores?

No, but by god the unions want them to.

A person's compensation package in a company is almost always dependent on factors such as: how large the field of candidates is and how much value that position brings to the company.

In this case, the CEO has proven his worth by squaring off against the unions and winning. The unions were causing millions of dollars damage to the company's bottom line with each strike. Now there can't be another strike, ergo he justified his pay increase.

So, going back to your example, I think a better wording is "If you don't like the conditions, don't drop out of school, and learn a trade that has some friggin value."

I am absolutely disgusted with those people that refuse to get off of their fat asses and apply themselves. And don't give me any of this "college is expensive" crap. Sure it is, and as long as you aren't getting a degree in underwater basket weaving, worth every damn penny. Never mind the shear amount of free money out there for pretty much ANYONE willing to try.

Unions in todays' developed world need to be abolished. The main problem they were after has already been legislated and is enforceable: working conditions and hours. Beyond that, let the market figure out what the job is worth.

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Facepalm

Dumbass - lol!

Firstly, thanks for the nice childish intro, good work.

Secondly, you are missing a huge point here - the government is the one who is trying to pull the plug on benefits that the country cannot afford. The unions are trying to prevent this from happening. So you have a situation where the elected government are being controlled by a group of people who were not elected, well, at least not by the general public - all happening in a democracy...

I'm sorry, but that is completely retarded. It is giving public sector workers their cake 5 times over, some puke bags should they need to relieve themselves, and the general thumbs up to do whatever.

You only have to look at the stats for public vs private sector sick leave to see that the public sector take the piss (I have had less sick days in my last 9 years work than the average for 1 year in the NHS). In fact, I'd imagine, though admittedly don't have the stats, that all unionised jobs have the same mis-allignment with the rest of the workforce.

So yes, people are replaceable - and so they should be. Just because you got a job in the first place doesn't mean you deserve to keep it!

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Unhappy

El Reg looking like The Daily Fail?

Unions are bad?

While not every single union on every country on every industry is good, its undeniable that they have done more good than harm.

It is a sad day when the working class can be pitted against one another and they fall for that bait.

People used to work 7 days in the days of yore. Shifts that exceeded 12 hours. Without pensions, safety regulations, vacations and other luxuries that have been won tooth and nail.

The fatcats of the industry have always been willing to spill their workers' blood. Don't you remember the Pinkertons? The miners that were air bombed by the US air force ordered by the president who was also a shill for corporations? Match girls? The Coca Cola bottle workers murder in Colombia? The banana workers murders in Colombia?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Blair_Mountain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_matchgirls_strike_of_1888

People seem to have a short memory. This whole recession has been caused by corporate greed. Its about time somebody put a check on it. Unions can help do that. Nobody wants communism to return but creating an underclass of unemployable people (because their skills are too expensive to pay in the country) and reducing social mobility are not helping this matter at all.

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Black Helicopters

Lovely logic

I will remember that, next time I talk to the matchgirl living next door. Oh, wait. They all died of whatever in the intervening years.

Just because unions did some good over 100 years ago does not justify what they are doing these days. What they are doing these days is pretty damned thuggish and ugly, and calling it OK because their long-dead co-workers did something decent once-upon-a-time is ludicrous. Going by that logic, since at one time the American Democrtatic Party openly supported Jim Crow and idiots in sheets, all current Democrats belong in jail.

Also, blaming corporate greed is also a tad bizarre, given that the economic troubles we're in is caused by a mix of governmental incompetence, crony capitalism and power schemes executed by the people that are supposed to serve us in government. As the old saying goes, "They went to Washington to do good, and stayed to do well."

Put the blame where it belongs. There's no shortage of greed in corporations, but without a witches' brew of sweetheart deals, special legislation and political handouts/favors, it would all have been held in check. "Too big to fail" just means "We've found that the best solution is to use someone else's money", where the checque may have been written to corporate cretins, but it was drawn on the taxpayers account, and the signature was from the people with a trust to not do stuff like that.

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"This whole recession has been caused by corporate greed.'

No, no it wasn't.

It was mostly caused by greed, yes. But not the corporate kind. Greece and others were caused by the huge social packages that the people demanded. In other words, the Greed of the people.

In the US, the mortgage meltdown was caused by a bunch of politicians trying to get reelected by first encouraging and then forcing banks to lend to those that flat out couldn't pay back the loans.

The bigger financial issue boils down to various governments turning off necessary financial controls like "naked short selling" along with, again, highly encouraging banking institutions to make loans they shouldn't have and BACKING THEM.

Corporate greed? seriously, learn how to read and target the ones that really caused this crap.

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