There’s been much talk here in trendy London about the forthcoming tube strike. How dare those rotters and that herbert Bob Crow make our lives a misery?!
Mayor Boris Johnson has confirmed that nine out of ten Tube stations face severe restrictions or total closure of ticket offices in direct contradiction of electoral promises he gave Londoners. A deliberate policy of not filling vacancies is already compromising YOUR safety with the latest alleged-scandal exposed by RMT on the Metropolitan Line where an incident report appears to confirm that stations are being left unstaffed contrary to safety protocols. In addition, the latest cuts imposed on Transport for London by the government as part of the ConDem ‘austerity’ agenda have yet to bite and the union has warned that many more Tube staff jobs could be axed with the London Tory group demanding that all 3,500 drivers and operators be fired and the Tube moved over to driverless operation. That’s DRIVERLESS OPERATION on a network that was built in the 19th century and is falling apart in places.
Bob Crow from the RMT has said “This disregard for safe working practices will have dire consequences in the event of a major incident and RMT will not sit back and wait for a tragedy to hit the network before we act”. Scaremongering? According to Crow Tube bosses have also admitted that services are running on dangerous and rotten infrastructure as the government lines up further attacks on the budget and the tube upgrade programme. TfL have gone on the record to warn of the dangers of allowing trains to continue to run on signalling and equipment dating back to the 1920s. There is worse to come with the massive backlogs in maintenance and upgrade works.
Conservative GLA members staged a walkout in the London Assembly to prevent a vote on a motion calling on Boris Johnson to review plans to axe jobs and to close or slash the opening times of ticket offices. The motion called on Johnson to “reaffirm reasonable and safe staffing levels right across the London Underground”.
Then there’s the issue of diminished pensions. All of the BBC’s current three pension schemes are contracted to pay pensions which relate basic salary to retirement income. In June 2010 management revealed plans to limit increases to 1% a year. This tears up the BBC’s contract with staff by destroying the realtionship between basic income and earnings in reirement, effectively making them worthless. This is because the pension fund by its very nature was gambled on the markets and has a massive shortfall: the money’s gone. Should BBC staff accept this?
The fortunate who have a job are scared witless of losing it, particularly since unemployment is now so often a prelude to losing one’s home. From the Government’s and the Capitalist’s point of view, this is unadulterated good news.
Yet people are still willing to walk out and risk everything, if they can find a path through the legal labyrinth to do it. Why? It’s not the money. For a low-paid hospital worker, the difference between a 1 per cent rise and 3 per cent may be worth having, but it is surely not enough to put your job at hazard and lose a good deal more income while doing it….?
Strikes are very rarely about pay anyway. It’s often really about bad industrial relations or bloody-minded management or low morale.
Strikes are a good thing. They are an index of freedom in advanced industrial societies. Strikes can shake the world, or nations at any rate, and often for the better.
This is not a fashionable view of the world, certainly not nowadays. Because it is also true that strikes can be divisive, humiliating and, in material terms, extremely damaging to those who take part in them.
But people still want to do it, or at least want to have the right to do it.
Is this the reversal, or a slowing down of recent trends? The UK strike rate used to be well ahead of the average for industrialised nations, but in the last two decades it has fallen sharply; well behind the likes of Canada, Australia, Spain, and Denmark. Our strike rate has been consistently below the European Union average for 10 years. In some years, even the Germans strike more often. The Greeks are the most strike-happy.
The Tory Employment Secretaries of the ’80s and ’90s tried to knacker YOUR RIGHTS at work. There were eight trade union acts between 1980 and 1992 – each narrowing further the scope of trade union powers and making it harder and harder to mount a lawful industrial stoppage.
Jack Jones, the sexy Transport Union leader and post-war colossus of the labour movement, once warned that dullard Edward Heath’s ill-fated 1971 Industrial Relations Act would “bring a swarm of black-coated lawyers into industrial relations”. His prediction has come true. It only takes one member not to get a ballot paper, or one non-member to get a ballot paper, and the employer can get an injunction. By a thousand and one such Lilliputian legal strands is the strength of organised labour held down. It matters not that the RMT had voted overwhelmingly for a strike in a secret postal ballot, LU still injuncted them.
Thee Faction deplores recent court cases against trade unionists that have voted overwhelmingly for action to defend safety, jobs and conditions only for the courts to rule out strikes on stupid little technicalities. This wave of litigation by the employers is part of a new push from the bosses to get the new government to ban strike action even further. With public spending cuts set to intensify this autumn there is no doubt that the government and the employers will see the anti-union laws as a weapon to choke off resistance to cuts in jobs and services. Now is the perfect time for folk to rally round and defend the basic right to defend jobs, standards of living and public services.
Thee Faction support MP John McDonnell’s Private Members Bill which seeks to eliminate attempts to sabotage strike ballots in the Courts.
Thee Faction believe the picket line should not be crossed: this is a fundamental social contract akin to getting your round in.
Because.. almost all the rights we enjoy at work and as part of our current ‘democracy’ have been won by union campaigning and the Labour movement as a whole. The union makes us strong and gets things done. What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?
Every day unions help thousands of people at work. Last year unions won a record £330 million compensation for their members. They won £1 million in equal pay claims – an average of £15,000 per member. And of course unions help negotiate better pay and conditions. Ask yourself “where we would be without the Trades Union Movement?”
Unions are not just there when something goes wrong. Unionised workplaces are safer, and more likely to help employees get on with better training and development programmes. And in the best workplaces employers and unions have put behind them outdated ideas of confrontation and work together in partnership.
Partnership employers recognise that staff morale and commitment are improved when they are treated well, have their views taken into account and enjoy job security. And in return staff take more pride in their work and are more ready to embrace the changes modern firms often need to compete. Unions take on the bad employers, and work with the good to make them better.