What Arthur Scargill has in common with Neutron Jack Welch

Unlikely as it seems, maybe the one-time union firebrand can learn something from the former GE boss.

by James Taylor
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
On the face of it, Arthur Scargill and Jack Welch don’t appear to have a lot in common. One’s a radical socialist, best known for spearheading the miners’ strike in the 1980s; the other is one of the world’s most famous capitalists, whose fearsome reputation was forged building General Electric into the biggest company on the planet. But we couldn’t help noticing that Scargill’s current spat with the National Union of Mineworkers bears some resemblance to the one Welch experienced after he gave up the top job at GE. Perhaps the two should meet up and swap strategies over a skinny soya latte?
 
Today’s papers report that Scargill has been effectively expelled – or at least, stripped of his perks and voting rights – from the NUM, the union he led from 1981 to 2002, and of which he remains the ‘honorary life president’. In truth, his influence has been on the wane ever since he took on Mrs Thatcher’s Government in the 1984 miners’ strike, with disastrous results: the pit closures went ahead, and the NUM ended up splitting in two (amid complaints about his refusal to hold a national ballot). At the time, the union had over a quarter of a million members; these days, it has less than 1% of that. (Scargill now runs the Socialist Labour Party, which rarely troubles the swingometer on election night).
 
Relations have apparently been chilly between the union and its old boss for a while – and now it’s apparently written to Scargill suggesting he will no longer be entitled to benefits like cheap fuel and the use of a London flat. The union says he no longer qualifies under the rules Scargill himself helped to draw up; according to the Guardian, Scargill’s cronies are alleging a witch-hunt because they’ve raised questions about financial irregularities. Either way, it looks like being a rather undignified and acrimonious end to his long relationship with the NUM.
 
Now we suspect that not many MT readers will shed too many tears over a bit of union in-fighting (particularly where Arthur Scargill is concerned). But we were amused by the parallels with Jack Welch’s situation at GE. The controversial boss (whose 20-year tenure saw GE transform itself into a $400bn behemoth) received all kinds of crazy perks after stepping down as CEO in 2001 – including use of the corporate jet, expensive apartments, court-side seats for the Knicks, and so on. Unfortunately this prompted a shareholder outcry when they came to light following his divorce in 2002, and he was forced (rather ignominiously) to give most of them up.
 
Perhaps if Scargill plans to fight the move, he should just tell the NUM that compared to Neutron Jack, subsidised gas bills and a flat in the Barbican don’t really amount to much...?


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What Arthur Scargill has in common with Neutron Jack Welch
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