Tube workers on £100k-a-year strike aren’t oppressed workers, they’re just greedy bullies | Leo McKinstry | Columnists | Comment

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Yet, amidst the patriotic cheer, there is a group of wreckers who aim to undermine the festivities for their own ends. In a move that smacks of blackmail, transport union RMT is now planning a major strike on the metro network over the Jubilee bank holiday as tens of thousands of people hope to gather in the heart of the capital to honor Elizabeth II .

General secretary Mick Lynch says his members have been forced to challenge bullying by Transport for London and warns that unless management backs down there will be ‘significant disruption’ to Tube services, especially in key stations near Buckingham Palace.

The RMT threat is a cynical abuse of monopoly power to maximize public frustration and sow panic among transport bosses.

There is not the slightest justification for this judgment. Tube drivers are part of the working aristocracy, enjoying lavish salaries, pensions and benefits. Their base salary is £56,000 but, with overtime and allowances, the package total is worth much more.

Last November, it was reported that three Tube conductors had won up to £100,000, while as many as 3,045 of them had received between £70,000 and £80,000. It is laughable to claim that these are oppressed workers fighting for their fundamental rights.

Most commuters earn much less than them and will feel the cost of living crisis more strongly. What the RMT is doing has nothing to do with social justice and everything to do with exploiting its privileged position.

Sadly, the potential London Underground shutdown is just part of a wider program of mayhem planned by the 40,000 RMT members, who are currently being voted for industrial action over job losses and pension changes, as the rail industry seeks to balance the books in the face of a vast exodus of passengers since the Covid pandemic.

This weekend, Mick Lynch declared in a tone of destructive delight that “a railway strike will bring the country to a standstill”, stretching from “the north of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall”.

Shortages of food and electricity could result, as well as the misery of travellers. This summer of chaos will be even worse if the RMT is supported by the other major rail unions, including Aslef, representing drivers, and the TSSA, made up of white collar workers.

The objectives of the unions are not only industrial. They also want to increase political pressure on the government to renationalise the rail system.

The privatization was “a disaster,” says Lynch. But in fact, the rail sell-off was a great success, pushing the number of trips to 1.8 billion a year.

Moreover, renationalization will do nothing to improve industrial relations. Under state-owned British Rail, in the decades before privatisation, strikes were rampant.

Moreover, the Edinburgh SNP government has just taken Scotrail into its own hands. The RMT’s first response was to call for a series of walkouts, resulting in the cancellation of hundreds of performances.

Rail activism seems contagious. As part of a dispute over salaries and pensions, university professors are currently engaged in a marked boycott of student work.

The GMB is holding a ballot for strikes at UK airports.

Garbage collectors, truck drivers, health workers and postal staff are also threatening to strike.

In response, the government is now talking about new laws to break the hold of the unions. These include a plan in the education sector to strengthen the rights of non-union members.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wants laws whereby unions would agree to provide a minimum level of service in the event of walkouts or fines.

But the government should entirely remove the legal immunity of unions from damages caused by strikes.

Unions like the RMT have shown that they are too irresponsible to benefit from such protections. If they could be prosecuted, like any other individual or organization, they would soon stop their antics.

Conservative government ministers like to brag about being Thatcherites in spirit.

Now is the time to prove it, by taking on activists who despise the public and the Queen.

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