Pubs to go on strike?
The Great British Pub is an ailing, sickly thing. Pubs are dropping like brides' nighties leaving us faced with a wall of chain pubs and their fart-smelling pints. The latest figure is that 52 boozers are closing every week.
As our locals shut up shop, we find ourselves increasingly likely to stay in our homes getting rat-arsed, smoking tabs on the flammable couch and pretending to talk to strangers when we go for a slash and standing in our gardens throwing wild punches at an imagined adversary who fingered our girlfriend's pint.
And things could get a whole lot worse.
You see, pubs are getting priced out of the game and thousands of landlords are set to vote on whether to take industrial action in protest at the amount they must pay in overheads.
Over half of Britain's pubs are owned by large pub firms - pubcos - and the GMB union says they require landlords to buy beer at a premium rate, as well as being asked to cough up for an up-front fee to and over-the-odds rent.
Apparently, there's around 25,000 landlords in the UK who run 'tied pubs', which are rented from one of seven large property companies who also sell them beer. GMB reckons that the pubs are being charged up to double the wholesale price of beer available on the open market and makes demands of £12,000 of the annual cut in wholesale payments for each pub.
Industrial action looks inevitable but as yet, is not clear in what shape it will take. Should the staff and landlords decide to picket across the doors of their pubs, we could well see pubco reps backed by policemen with their numbers covered taking swipes at busty barmaids whilst alcoholics openly weep stage left as Billy Bragg strikes up a tuneless protest song.
Or, it could be a good time to start getting hammered on cheap ale.
GMB national officer Paul Maloney said: "If members vote for action, pubs will lower prices to customers during the dispute. The aim of the action by the tied tenants is to secure negotiation with pubcos to achieve very substantial cuts in wholesale prices and a resolution to a wide range of grievances experienced by the tied tenants at the hands of the pubcos' middle managers and their agents."
MPs from the Business and Enterprise Select Committee have called for the Competition Commission to investigate arrangements that oblige pub tenants to take beer supplies only from their landlords.