As usual on a strike-day, the Evening Standard is full of selected quotes from commuters condemning the strike. Allow me to have a different take.
I happen to be a commuter myself, crossing London twice daily, so I was inconvenienced by the strike. But the strikers have my support. They are fighting to save jobs. Boris Johnson and the Tube management claim the jobs that are to go in ticket offices are not needed because everybody uses Oyster cards these days. A number of people (including yous truly) do not (I use a season ticket – cheaper than “pay as you go”) so it would probably be useful to us to have staff around to sell us new tickets. Oyster users need to top up and tourists need to buy tickets so I find TfL’s arguments a bit less than convincing.
Rather than engage with the RMT’s concerns, however, Boris Johnson and the Confederation of British Industry call for more restrictions on the right to strike.
They call for banning strikes unless a majority of those eligible to vote (rather than a majority of those who actually vote) support the call for strike action. This would almost certainly ensure that fewr strikes take place but it would mean those that did would be much more solidly supported than at present.
Realising this, they also call for the ban on using
scab workers strikebreakers agency temps to cover the work of strikers to be lifted. This might work for people such as station staff (but I thought that they weren’t needed) but I doubt that the average employment agency has many qualified train drivers on their books.
The reduction in TfL staff is necessary to balance the books because the TfL budget, like all public sector budgets, is likely to be drastically cut to balance the books in order to pay for the bank bailouts. So ordinary citizens are meant to pay with their jobs for the bad decisions made in the City. In the curious double-think of the financial markets Government spending is bad unless it means taxpayers money is used to cover the bad bets of hedge-fund speculators and sub-prime mortgage lenders.
Personally, I am glad to see that the RMT is standing firm in the face of this hypocricy and that the old socialist principles of solidarity still means something. Striking drivers are not under immediate threat of redundancy but they are joining the action in support of their less well paid colleagues. I can only hope that when the axe falls on education my own union takes a similar stand.