I’m pleased that I am heading to London tomorrow rather than today. Once again millions of ordinary working people are experiencing travel chaos for the “crime” of trying to get to work in order to provide for their families. When Sadiq Khan, the Labour Mayor of London, says that this current strike is unnecessary, it tells you everything you need to know as to why the strike is taking place.
Of course Tube drivers and other Transport for London (TfL) staff don’t want to lose a day’s pay, but what is more important to them and the union barons masterminding today’s action is power. Who controls TfL? Is it the management or the unions? For years now, it has been the latter.
If doesn’t matter how flimsy the reason is, Tube drivers will strike to prove that they can cripple our great capital city at the drop of a hat. Even when a driver failed two routine breath tests and was dismissed, the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union – the RMT – voted for strike action.
The reason for today’s strike is an old chestnut: ticket office closures. I haven’t used a ticket office in years. I can’t remember the last time I did, and the same goes for millions of people who use the Tube. The system is so automated now, you hardly ever see people trying to put a ticket into the machine to open the barriers. Some passengers, according to a review commissioned by the Mayor, have struggled to find staff and support since ticket offices closed. Those people are in a very small minority. They shouldn’t be forgotten about, and any issues should be dealt with, but that isn’t a reason to ruin everyone’s day.
To make matters worse, if you commute into London using Southern (God help you if you do), you face the prospect of not being able to get to work thanks to more strike action tomorrow, Wednesday, and Friday. Some RMT members are walking out, but the main protagonists in that dispute is the RMT’s brothers in Aslef.
We are now in the second week of 2017 and it’s not too late for Sadiq Khan and Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, to make belated New Year’s Resolutions. They should resolve to negotiate no-strike agreements for transport staff across the country. If necessary, they should enforce them.
Any dispute between management of either TfL or other train operating companies and the unions should be dealt with using fast track arbitration. Both sides will have to agree on who the independent arbitrator is going to be, but once that is in place, both sides in a dispute will also agree in advance to abide by the independent arbitrator’s decision. It is a grown-up response that will deal fairly with both sides in a dispute and not inflict misery on the travelling public.
If the unions reject this, then it will prove once and for all that they are not interested in safety, passengers, or whatever other bogus reason they trot out for going on strike. If they accept it, then perhaps we can all look forward to a more peaceful 2017 in our quest of getting to work on time.