Thursday, 6 February 2014

There is no justification for the London Tube Strike - Bob Crow should be ashamed of himself

Tonight I will walk from Westminster to Kings Cross, to take the train home to Northumberland - for my part I like the exercise, albeit it is raining in London, and I have a bag to carry! Others are not so lucky, and this strike is clearly affecting jobs, peoples day to day lives, and the viability of the UK and London economy. Over the last day and a half I have seen how much this strike is damaging the London and UK economy.

Before I criticise the strike, Mr Crow, and this unions decision I should make a few things clear:
I wholeheartedly support trade unions. I have also spent a large amount of my working life as a lawyer representing employees, and I have seen the positive side of constructive trade union work. But, on any interpretation, I struggle to see the merit of the Tube Strike called by Bob Crow. Others have had a dig at Crow's decision to go on holiday. I do not mind that. Everyone is entitled to a holiday. Nor am I going to point out that he earns more than the Prime Minister, yet continues to live in a council house, as a reason why the strike action is wrong - such matters are an issue for his union members, and local authority. I am not even going to have a dig at the Labour party for not condemning this farce, albeit the braver Labour MPs have done so.

This strike is about the threat of redundancy from staff, who will lose their jobs because of ticket office closures and mechanisations. The reason is simple: at most tube stations now there is no need of personnel to dispense tickets. Machines and computers can do the job, and cost far far less - thereby reducing the cost of the fare / cost of living. The irony of the Labour campaign on this issue seems lost on Crow and the Labour party.

The strike by Crow is his attempt at saying the world is not automating - its like Canute holding back the oncoming tide. The world and the economy changes - that is a fact of life. We have to adapt.

Also, the strike is costing in excess of £100 million a day, in lost work, production and output in the South East. In the North East, I can point out that the Metro ticket offices are effectively unmanned. There are job losses involved in the decision by Boris Johnson, but there are no compulsory redundancies. 

It was Barbara Castle, the former Labour minister, who asked:
“When the bus drivers go out on a wildcat strike, what about the woman waiting at the bus stop with her shopping and her children?”
Her point was that the sectional interests of one group of workers should not trump the general wellbeing – something for which Mr Crow has shown little consideration.

This strike is not progress, or a workers struggle. It also reflects badly on the good work trade unions do, and loses them sympathy for the real fights that really matter.