The Right to Strike

Acetate stencil commemorating the life and dea...
Utah Phillips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was watching BBC Question Time the other night and the great and the good were waffling on about removing the right of tube workers to withdraw their labour. Most of the Parliamentary politicos seemed to think restricting the right to strike for public transport workers might be a good thing. I expect our government of millionaires will be contemplating the same thing. After all they managed it with GCHQ.

It reminded me of a quote from Utah Phillips which I couldn’t quite remember so I posted this on twitter:

The right to strike is not a right conferred upon the masses by the elite and is not theirs to withdraw

Summed it up for me. Anyhow, here’s the most excellent quote from Utah:

The state can’t give you freedom, and the state can’t take it away. You’re born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free…

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Held to Ransom by the RMT

A London Underground 1995 Stock train pulls in...Image via Wikipedia

Or so the headlines go.

The RMT has completed a secret ballot as required by law and the union is now planning 2 days of strike action which will shut the London tube system down.

As expected this has been greeted with howls of anger and indignation from media commentators and also from the general public, or at least the most vocal ones.

But is this anger justified? It’s not like the members of the RMT have been flipping their second homes or claiming for duck houses is it? I do think that we need to actually get people to look more at the issues and challenge the knee-jerk response which does nothing but denigrate the work these people do.

To see why the RMT membership has called this strike follow the link.

So let’s have a look at the typical outburst from Disgusted of Chipping Ongar and how we can best respond and educate.

“Sack the lot of them, we can train the unemployed to do the jobs.”

So you’ve looked into what the requirements are for actually doing the job. If you did you would see that training is absolutely vital as they have the safety of up to 4 million people a day in their hands. Proper training costs money and takes time. Look at the safety record on the rail transport system, would you want to jeapordise that?

“They already earn over £40k, what the hell they complaining for?”

Have you actually bothered to find out what the industrial action is about? Have you looked at the work that they do? You do know that they can be expected to work every day bar Christmas day at all hours of the day and night, do you?

“They should be grateful they’ve got a job.”

I expect they are also grateful that they don’t have to tug their forelock every time a toff enters the room as well. We’ve moved on a bit since the days of serfdom. Without the labour these people provide the shareholders would get nothing. The drivers are full and equal partners in the service that gets millions of people from A to B every day.

“In times like these everyone needs to tighten their belts.”

Do they? MPs look like they need to loosen their belts to accomodate the opulent misuse of expenses. The corporate barons certainly haven’t needed to tighten their belts, in fact the government has bailed them out with so much of your tax money that this dispute doesn’t even register in financial terms. Have you ever wondered why it’s the man and woman in the street that’s being asked to bail out the bankers for the biggest banking crisis in history?

“You don’t see bus drivers doing this.”

No, you don’t. But go back a few decades and you see pay parity between bus drivers and train and tube drivers. What happened was that the lack of union activity within the bus companies allowed the wages and terms and conditions of bus drivers to be driven down. Which in reality shows you the benefit of a strong union to represent you.

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