As I came in to London and read the front page of Metro, I could see that Bob Crow was proud of the chaos he brought to Londoners, or at least the chaos he thought he had brought. He proclaimed: “I’m really pleased, it was a solid success. The whole city ground to a halt and the disruption it caused was all over the papers”. Inspiring stuff. One must wonder why he didn’t just hire a bunch of suicide bombers to come into town and repeat 7/7, if he is so interested in this type of headline at the expense of the people that pay for the underground network.
I was caught up in the horror of July 7th back in 2005, travelling on a diverted bus two in front of the one that was blown up by a suicide bomber near Tavistock Square. I will never forget that day, from the chaos in the morning to the eerie silence trapped in a London under siege, broken up only by the sirens of the emergency services.
There were no tubes and, until later in the evening, no buses. Yet, we all knew that it wasn’t a time to moan but to get on with life. We all took to the streets and walked, and walked, and walked. It brought Londoners together, even if people didn’t all suddenly start talking to each other. Everyone was in the same boat. Everyone felt the same; the terrorists would never win.
Last weekend, we remembered the 65th anniversary of the D-Day and the Normandy Landings, another time in history where everyone united together. Perhaps it was a combination of 7/7 and an acceptance that Bob will call for a strike at any time, for any reason, that people are no longer angry in the same way when there’s a strike. People seek alternative transport, take to the streets on foot or even dust off their bicycles – as demonstrated by London streets that looked like the centre of Amsterdam at times.
This time, bosses offered more flexibility to let staff turn up late, or leave early. Some let staff work from home. Many small shops posted notices to say they were adjusting their opening hours for staff, and I’m sure nobody is planning to boycott them over their decision. In fact, most people would respect them and think that this is what they would have done.
If Bob is trying to secure a 5% payrise for his members, he’s not even going to get support from his own members that can see that, when interest rates are at 0% and people are losing their jobs every day, it’s not the best time to arrogantly hold the capital to ransom for more money. If it’s about protecting all staff against compulsory redundancy then it’s simply not feasible to have such a guarantee in this climate. Nobody can enjoy this luxury anymore – not even politicians.
But it’s more than just a payrise, job security, or moaning about the state of tube trains that are due to be replaced just as quickly as they’re built. The RMT is also looking to protect staff that made dangerous mistakes, like jumping red signals or opening train doors on the wrong side in stations. Some of these drivers then attempted to cover up their actions, rather than own up and take the penalty and obligatory re-training. It’s the covering up that says these people aren’t worth protecting, not the fact that they – like anyone – could make a mistake. Mind you, you only need one mistake to have a disaster.
On the whole, train drivers are worth their money (and, the press like to keep mentioning the fact that they earn around £40k and enjoy free travel for themselves and their family) because they’re not just driving a train, but looking after thousands of passengers every day. They’re paid to deal with the unexpected – and nobody would be having the same argument about an airline pilot. Imagine the outrage if a union tried to strike over an airline pilot that turned up drunk to fly a plane.
For Bob to seemingly look forward to the next strike, he is gradually turning more and more people against him and his union – and probably all unions. He even had the nerve to hint after we won the Olympics that there would probably be strikes on or before it took place. He must be rubbing his hands with glee when thinking about what he can gain by holding the whole world to ransom. If he’s still in charge, that is.
It’s no wonder that even union members are starting to turn against a man that was allegedly telling members how to vote in the recent European elections. It only serves to give ammunition to the people who would like to see the unions outlawed, which would be a disaster for the honest worker that looks for protection and support when unfairly dismissed, bullied in the workplace or made to work in dangerous conditions.
Is Bob in fact working ‘for the man’ and trying to bring down the unions from the inside? If he is, and one day we lose the last bit of protection between ourselves and our employer, we’ll have Bob Crow to thank for it.
The only worrying thing is that Bob can’t understand this. He knows this strike didn’t work, but he will simply assume that repeated strikes will eventually push us to the limit. You can’t reschedule meetings forever, and when the skies open up the thought of walking or cycling won’t be quite as appealing.
And, so, on that basis – this strike wasn’t a success but nor is it over yet.