Saturday, June 13, 2009

On the Tube strike

"I'm not getting a pay rise, so WHY SHOULD you?": the charming reactions to the RMT strike in London and the legacy of New Labour's Public-Private Partnership.

The degree of superficiality that met the RMT strike action in the last few days has been a true sight to behold.

Fed by the hysteria in the mainstream media, many in the general public have adopted a toxic stance, epitomised by these two comments to an article by RMT leader Bob Crow in the Guardian:

"How can anyone seriously be demanding a pay rise and 100% job security at the moment?" (link);

"I'm struggling to understand why you SHOULD get a pay rise. I didn't get a pay rise last year, I've been told I'm not getting one this year. These are hard times". (link)

One may guess this is what happens after twenty-five years of surgical hacking away at the concepts of workers' solidarity and unionism. Just look after number one and if things turn sour then you sink or swim. On your own.

My generation don't think that a successful industrial action may set a positive precedent and pave the way for everybody. After being brought up on a diet of agency jobs and perma-temping, all we can come up with is: "I'm not getting a pay rise so why should you get one" and "I've got an unsecure job -or none at all- so why should you be spared the risk of redundancy".

Particularly frustrating though, is the all-out ignorance of the background to the strike.

The papers may have deployed tons of ink on Gordon Brown's bitten fingernails, but god forbid if they ever explain something factual about his policy failures.

At the root of the strike, there's the dismal fiasco of the Blair and Brown-sponsored Public-Private Partnership for the London Underground, one of New Labour's flagship projects for privatising essential public services.

Does anyone remember when Ken Livingstone was being dubbed "too left-wing" for fighting against it? Do you remember when the warnings that it would cost the public billions were met by glazed-eyed Blairite psalms of "modernise modernise modernise"?

Well. If there was one thing the opponents of PPP got wrong, it was how quickly the whole scheme went pear-shaped. By 2007 Metronet, one of the two corporations operating in the scheme, was placed into administration and the UK taxpayer was left to foot the rest of the bill, estimated at £2bn.

Today up to 4,000 jobs are at risk as a desperate attempt to make up for the collapse of Metronet, meaning £2.4 billion worth of spending cuts. For Boris Johnson though, the Unions are just being "capricious".


Lee Griffin said...

Yet, at the crux of it really, on a simple level, you have tube drivers earning £40k asking for another £2k a year. You can dismiss the arguments of "well I'm not getting one, so why should you?" if you like, but they are definitely relevant in this current time, especially when people earning something like double the average national wage are causing chaos because they want more money.

If this was *just* cleaners wanting to get off the minimum wage, if this was just a workforce that has been unethically stuck on zero or less percent wage increases for 4 or 5 years, then perhaps there would be a way for the government to get behind them.

As it stands it's actually, regardless of the realities of any other underlying issues, a situation of quite well paid people wanting more cash.

AdamB said...

"well I'm not getting one, so why should you?"

Well Boris is getting one so why shouldn't they?

Johnny SixBras said...

Yet, at the crux of it really, on a simple level, you have tube drivers earning £40k asking for another £2k a year.

Lee, you find that that is only part of what the negotiations are about.

Aside from the insult of having a five year pay deal imposed on London Underground linked to deflation (meaning a real pay cut years into the future - can you think of any other category settling for that???)...

One of the biggest issues here is the massive job cuts, which could mean the axing of up to 4,000 jobs

The union accepted that the issue of wages and disciplinary procedures would be put to one side, focussing solely on the issue of compulsory redundancies. LU rejected even this, however..