A Shambles That Is beyond Parody

Daily Mail (London), January 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Shambles That Is beyond Parody


SUDDENLY, Britain seems to be slithering back into the industrial relations madness of the 1970s. Across a stricken rail network, the unions are circling like vultures, convinced they have found easy prey.

After inflicting acute misery on passengers who use South West Trains and ScotRail, the militants plan more mayhem at Arriva Northern and Connex, in the South East. And as we report today, that may be only the beginning of an increasingly ugly industrial war.

South Central and c2c are also facing chaos, while passengers on the London Tube are likely to suffer a series of 24-hour stoppages, in a widening dispute that owes more to greed, brute industrial muscle and internal union politicking than to any genuine grievances.

But while the blame lies largely with such neanderthal union barons as Bob Crow of the RMT and Mick Rix of Aslef, New Labour has serious questions to answer. The truth is that this Government's folly has positively encouraged union bloody-mindedness.

After all, industrial disruption in the first years of the privatised railways was almost unheard of, partly because unions thought the operators wouldn't be such a pushover as the old British Rail.

But then came the disastrous era of John Prescott and then Stephen Byers, Ministers who lost no opportunity to score political points over an admittedly botched and unpopular privatisation.

They could have tried to make the system work, despite its faults. Instead they chose the easy course of attacking and undermining the rail companies - particularly Railtrack - at every turn. Is it really any wonder that the scavengers of Aslef and the RMT are seizing their opportunity? ` Between them, Prescott and Byers have destroyed morale, driven out decent managers and left the industry on its knees. …

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