Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Strike Wasn't about Jobs, It Was All about Politics; the Latest Industrial Action on the Tube Was a Show of Force by the Trade Union Left against the Coalition

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

This Strike Wasn't about Jobs, It Was All about Politics; the Latest Industrial Action on the Tube Was a Show of Force by the Trade Union Left against the Coalition

Article excerpt

Byline: Simon Jenkins

HERE we go again. Bedraggled queues struggle through the autumn damp to work -- or give up and go home. Like refugees from some wartime movie, they stream across London and Waterloo bridges to escape the Battle of the Tube. Buses are crammed, taxis unavailable, pubs droop into inactivity.

Yes, it is Bob Crow memorial day yet again. We can perhaps console ourselves that we will be able to tell our grandchildren that we witnessed Jurassic Park trade unionism.

Long after most union militants had bellowed and ranted and smashed their industries into oblivion, the militant ninja turtle named Crow lived on in the tunnels beneath the capital, howling his ghostly way to chaos, only emerging occasionally to appear on Have I Got News for You.

Crow survived so long after overdue extinction because he had a stranglehold over London's commuters, and because Gordon Brown's attempt to privatise his industry and break his power had been a miserable and costly failure.

Crow had his old, enfeebled enemy, Transport for London, back in charge, which meant at his mercy.

Yesterday's latest Tube strike had nothing to do with the pay or conditions of drivers or station staff, the normal justification for withdrawing labour. The union claims the strike is over "health and safety", but that is now a catch-all for any politicised dispute, with the Health and Safety Executive as the unions' friend in court. It is rubbish. Since the widespread use of Oyster cards, London ticket offices have become under-employed and Transport for London rightly wants to close some, reducing staff and bringing more of them onto forecourts. There are 800 job savings planned from this change, which is as it should be. London Tube travel costs a fortune. Yet Crow claims the cuts will mean "a tragedy on our hands".

For what it is worth, all stations will remain staffed under the proposals. Natural wastage will mean no compulsory redundancies.

No one is to lose his or her job. TfL promises there will be no loss of individual earnings. A job with London's Tube is secure and well-paid. How many workers in London, private sector or public, have that degree of assurance? The only tragedy in sight is Crow's possible loss of 800 members.

This is not the point. This strike, it is abundantly clear, is political, a campaign from the Left-wing of the trade union movement against the coalition Government, loudly championed by Crow at the Labour Party conference.

He is a straightforward chap, who makes no bones about hating Tories and Liberal Democrats. He backs, and is backed by, Ken Livingstone.

I have a certain respect for Crow for the simple reason that, in the past, he has correctly judged the balance of power in his subterranean corner of the rail industry and exploited it. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.