From the TUC

5 types of tosh people are talking about the #TubeStrike

05 Aug 2015, By

The #TubeStrike hashtag today isn’t one for the faint hearted. The Independent have thoughtfully compiled a tutorial for those who’d rather simply block it all out, but I’ve a kind of morbid fascination for it and where it comes from. I’ve identified five distinct types of tosh doing the rounds on the web, which I present here in no particular order:

1. What are they complaining about? Tube drivers get nearly £50,000.

Where to start? People are getting tied up on this one in a whole heap of ways. There’s those saying drivers deserve the cash for a difficult and responsible job (they do), that other public service workers should get more (they should), that it shows more people should join unions (duh), that some of those complaining about it don’t reckon top bankers are overpaid (funny that), or that it’s a function of capitalism (well yes).

But that’s all missing the point by a country mile.

Most people on strike today are not tube drivers. A Driver is a relatively senior position in London Underground. Station staff start at around half what tube drivers get. That’s for a job that currently includes anti-social hours working, and is now moving into full-on sociopathic hours working. Not many people outside the comment pages of the Daily Mail would begrudge a platform attendant that much. So shut up already about people on £50k.

2. London Underground have made a new offer and it looks pretty reasonable.

London Underground came back with a last minute response. It’s a favourite tactic of employers trying to confuse a strike. And true to form it doesn’t actually amount to much.

LU say that nobody will have to work longer hours as a result of these changes. But the strikers know that already – It’s part of the reason they’re striking. LU are trying to do night Tubes on the cheap, stretching the same staff hours out to cover with fewer people. Station attendants will have to do 12 hour overnight shifts on their own.

LU claim that whilst they may be imposing these new shifts on workers, it’s okay as it’s only temporary. Workers will be able to refuse all night shifts after the trial period. The glaring problem with that is that the “trial period” is one whole year. That’s quite some trial. Whilst they might just be able to work around it if it were just a fortnight, I can’t see many Tube workers’ spouses’ employers being happy to ‘temporarily’ change their hours for a whole year, so they can make childcare work, before they change back again. There’s also nothing about what happens if they don’t want to do the all-nighters after that. Will they get other shifts back, or just lose the hours?

And similarly disingenuous is London Underground’s claim that staff can swap shifts between themselves. That’s just lazy – trying to get the staff to clear up the employer’s mess themselves on an ad hoc basis. Nobody can plan long term commitments around informal swapping with their workmates. If LU weren’t trying to force this through unreasonably quickly for an arbitrary deadline they could do it much more fairly, working out a proper system for shift patterns through negotiation.

The ‘new offer’ doesn’t change anything. These workers’ employer is still rostering them to work all nights without negotiating it with them. That’s unreasonable, and LU should shut up about it.

3. What’s with all these strikes nowadays?

Reading certain parts of our media today, you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re heading for a full on “Winter of discontent”, via an “Autumn of discontent”, and following a similarly mardy spring and summer. It seems you can’t step outside your front door without being ‘held to ransom’ by rampaging gangs of ‘union barons’. However, the main reason the media are noticing strikes so much at the moment is that they’ve become so unusual – There are so few of them! We’ve had historically low strike action since the 90’s.

Last year, average days lost to strikes amounted to 12 minutes per worker. Have you spent 12 minutes on Facebook at work over the last year? No wonder the Government are so keen to ban Facebook. Oh wait, they aren’t.

If you really want to get nostalgic about a bygone era when people were out on strike every week and England still managed to win at football, you can shut up and carry on.

4. How dare they mess up my evening? Don’t they know who I am?

Yes, strikes inconvenience people – by definition. I’ve never yet met a striking worker who wanted to be out, or who wasn’t concerned about how it would impact on a service that they like working for and want to do well. Striking is a last option, when your employer is refusing to negotiate – it’s not something people do on a whim. But it’s hard to see how a worker can refuse to work without impacting on the people who make use of their work. That’s the same whether you’re a striking ticket officer, a cinema usher, or a museum attendant. No-one gloats over the hassle they’re causing innocent people.

There’s a peculiar lack of self awareness out there of people who are outraged at being delayed from doing the things they want to do in their leisure time, or their family lives for one whole day. As opposed of course to the Tube workers who are going to have their family and personal lives messed up every day, week in, week out.

So basically, yes, I’m afraid it sucks for everyone and will mean genuine problems for some people. But the majority of you tweeting about the complete nightmare of a slower journey can probably shut up and get over yourselves for one day.

5. If they don’t like it, why don’t they get another job?

Let me guess, your boss hasn’t told you recently that you’re going to be working all night next Saturday night, and doing it on your own? Thought not.

Lots of us have decent jobs with broadly decent employers. But what happens when your boss does something totally unreasonable and refuses to negotiate? It happens, and in a country where more and more people are being shunted into zero hours, short hours or false self employment temp jobs with fewer and fewer rights, it happens more often than you might think.

Union members won big changes like weekends (we like those), 8 hour days and paid holidays, because they didn’t take unreasonable abuse without doing something about it. If you let all the traffic go one way, eventually every job you move into will get just as bad as the last.

So if you think walking out of a career is a viable alternative to challenging injustices, then you have two options. Shut up, or grow a spine and join a union.

32 Responses to 5 types of tosh people are talking about the #TubeStrike

  1. Joe
    Aug 5th 2015, 5:03 pm

    Spot on. Solidarity with the strikers!

  2. Guy
    Aug 5th 2015, 5:48 pm

    Hi John,

    Just to be clear – because I think that is the point of this article – when you say “full on sociopathic hours”, what will they be? In other words, what will the worst weekly working pattern look like and what will the best weekly pattern look like, and how often will they be expected to work full nights at the weekends? It’s really hard to judge without knowing what the actual shift patterns proposed are.

    And secondly, when you say “Station attendants will have to do 12 hour overnight shifts on their own”, is that at all stations? And if not, how many and which ones? And will they be doing all 12 hours be themselves? Or will they have co-workers around for the busier parts of those 12 hours?

    It would be good to know some of this stuff so we can all judge based on actual information, don’t you think?

  3. Roger
    Aug 5th 2015, 7:27 pm

    Can’t see the Daily Torygraph publishing this, but nicely explained. United we stand, divided we fall.

    (Unite member, bus driver)

  4. Evelin
    Aug 5th 2015, 7:58 pm

    Thanks John,
    great explanations, nothing to add. I have observed, in public transport, bus stops, shops and pubs, that willingness to criticise strikers disappears quickly, if challenged. Majority of people get it very well – unions means people having guts to stand up for themselves. Keep up good work!
    Guy – you may find more information from RMT website, Strike leaflet can be found here https://www.rmt.org.uk/news/rmt-responds-to-latest-statements-from-lus-nick-brown/

  5. John hunt
    Aug 5th 2015, 8:34 pm

    Funny how we get most strikes and employment issues under Tory rule – but very good article

  6. Eamonn Hever
    Aug 5th 2015, 9:45 pm

    I agree with much of what you say however when there is talk of reducing staff to save public money and fares for end users the unions take offence that jobs are being eroded. It is inevitable that machines replace some human resources.
    If the unions had there way we would still be unloading ships using forklift trucks. I am all for unions to protect workers rights but leave the running of the companies to to employers.

  7. Ian Macnaughton
    Aug 5th 2015, 10:57 pm

    The bitter truth is that driverless trains will be the inevitable outcome and as a zero hours contract driver who currently earns less than ten k, I’m still finding it hard to sympathise with lonely drivers having to do some night work.

  8. Son of Man
    Aug 5th 2015, 11:31 pm

    Without facts the public only focus on the inconvenience. The union refuses to publish their demands but expect public support. The drivers have been the most vociferous on Facebook, so the anger of the public at these overpaid militants is justified. And the comment about not wanting to strike? I read more insulting, gloating posts from tube drivers about the public standing in line at bus stops than I did apologies for inconvenience. To be clear Mr TUC. Get the unions to publish their full demands and then let’s see how the public feel. If a four day, 32 hour week with a pay increase is not included in the demand, why the secrecy? The RMT has something to hide I feel.

  9. LTR
    Aug 6th 2015, 1:50 am

    Eamonn, the problem with TFL is that the bosses have rarely, if ever, worked on the frontline for any real period of time and have no real idea on the impact on the lives of the employees with these changes. Management have had a year to discuss things with the TU’s but left it, as usual, to the last moment. It’s not the TU’s responsibility to approach management on what could be hearsay and to be made look foolish.

    Son of Man, the RMT has nothing to hide and have been open since the initial discussions began and have published information on the meetings on their websites. The TU’s are looking for a work life balance and nothing more. There are no “demands” from the TU’s as you say. They want management to work to the the contract of employment that they agreed and signed up to with the employees and their representative TU’s.

    There have been no risk assessments carried out by the management in joint consultation with the TU’s on the changes to the night tube, which is required by law and a condition of the employees contract of employment. The management are for all intense and purposes, riding roughshod to have the night tube implemented at any cost, even if it means tearing up the contracts they signed up to.

    The TU’s are not asking for anything more than a better work life balance and has nothing to do with any pay claim or shorter working week.

  10. David Cloyne
    Aug 6th 2015, 1:57 am

    I borrowed some shoes from a friend and was planning to drop them back on Sunday evening. I couldn’t because he works at a bank, and didn’t get home that night until 2am. It was a fairly typical weekend for him. He earns £70k, a bit more than a tube driver but probably works, without exaggeration, at least double the hours . Quite frankly I’m sick of ignorant people bashing bankers just as much as I am sick of ignorant people bashing tube drivers

  11. Jason
    Aug 6th 2015, 7:52 am

    Bankers do work very hard David, but for what purpose? Tube staff provide a helpful service that makes peoples’ lives easier. Even through some of what bankers do is good (investment, loans, security) there’s an awful lot we could just do without, or do a whole lot better if they weren’t chasing bonuses and profit. They could take life a bit easier as well…

    Helpful article – be good to know if tube staff are allowed to communicate with customers about why they are striking.

  12. maximus
    Aug 6th 2015, 7:57 am

    I work on stations. At the moment I work various shifts including nights and twelve hour shifts. I’m not on strike for more money. I’m on strike because as part of the restructuring by Tfl for night tube and Fit for the future my work life balance will be nil. My work place is being changed from one side of London to the other. This means to get to work for 04.55 I will need to get leave home at 02.00. For sixteen weeks of the year I will not know what shift I will be doing or even where I will be working. My shift can be changed with 24 hrs notice instead of 28 days. So making plans with family or friends will be almost impossible. Staff have not seen any rosters, so do not know what shift patterns they will be working for night tube. On the station I work at no work has been done to ensure public or staff safety. The new part time people who are being brought in to work the night tube are totally inexperienced and as most of them have not even worked a Friday or Saturday night late shift, ill prepared.

  13. caprica
    Aug 6th 2015, 9:07 am

    “So if you think walking out of a career is a viable alternative to challenging injustices, then you have two options. Shut up, or grow a spine and join a union.”

    What a load of crap. The problem is there’s no injustice, there’s people pushing buttons taking home 50k+ a year having 40+ days’ holiday refusing to go to work. Of course you won’t go out and get a real job when there’s an option to keep getting what you’ve been getting and at the same time sitting at home holding the entire city to ransom.

  14. Aggie
    Aug 6th 2015, 10:22 am

    Ironic that, in a piece which specifies this is not Drivers striking,s o many people have read so little of the article that they are still banging on about drivers on 50k.

  15. John
    Aug 6th 2015, 10:41 am

    I’m amazed that some people cherry pick certain elements of the argument. A tube train driver earns just under £50,000 pounds a year and that’s it. There is no overtime, shift allowance or any other payments for unsocial hours. The 44 days leave includes all bank holidays and also Christmas Day as well so if your booked off work on Christmas Day you lose a holiday day.
    The money listed is the pay you get and this is the same for all underground workers.
    So all underground workers are overpaid ? But how much is a house in London ? Sorry a flat sorry how much to rent ??
    Should the police, firefighters and nurses get the same ?? Absolutely!!

  16. Thomas C
    Aug 6th 2015, 10:58 am

    We need strikes. We need unions. All of us. Just think about the National Gallery… Your final point here is particularly valid. Without strikes, union activity (and the entire left wing for that matter), our shady bastard overlords would have privatised the entire country, reduced everything beautiful and praiseworthy to units of economic value and probably enslaved us. A bit of minor inconvenience in my travel plans is fine- don’t let them ride roughshod over us- keep up the fight!

  17. Luke
    Aug 6th 2015, 11:16 am

    I’m sorry but the drivers are grossly overpaid for the job at hand. A huge number of jobs across the capital involve extra time, night shifts unexpected weekend work and such forth from bankers to bartenders. If myself or anyone else working in the financial services industry for example was unwilling to do extra work and all worked their contracted hours then they are in the wrong job. My job at less than 50k requires me to cancel on friends and family or work unsociable hours sometimes much like all of my friends. I am paid less than a tube driver and have less generous holiday, less pay and many hours. If we could I would sack them all and employ a more flexible and less greedy set of employees for LU. They have managed to manipulate and get to a cushy set of arrangements that are completely not in keeping with most other employers across the capital and small change has had them up in arms. They are still in a far better position than most Londoners financially given the lacking skill of the job and work required which is why the vast majority of people quite simply do not sympathise. I would rather keep having strikes then give in to these people and foot the bill as taxpayer.

  18. Luca
    Aug 6th 2015, 1:11 pm

    Hundreds of underpaid retail and hospitality workers (working LATE NIGHT SHIFTS and Weekends, one or two weekends free as much) affected by the tube strike and still going to work. I am sorry but I find all this completely unnecessary. What about paying for weekenders/night shifts only tube staff?

  19. Nathan
    Aug 6th 2015, 2:14 pm

    Luca:

    Sounds like these people could do with a union.

    Luke:

    Would you like to make it any clearer you didn’t read the article?

  20. Bullcrap
    Aug 6th 2015, 3:00 pm

    Typical union idiot spouting off left wing shite.

    “There’s those saying drivers deserve the cash for a difficult and responsible job” those being mainly red and black wearing unwashed socialists. Change the word ‘drivers’ to ‘nurses’ or ‘firemen’ and I would agree.

    “LU are trying to do night Tubes on the cheap, stretching the same staff hours out to cover with fewer people.” – More bullcrap LU have announced they have employed additional staff.

    “Last year, average days lost to strikes amounted to 12 minutes per worker.”

    Nice socialist diversion to a statistic that means nothing to the humble worker trying to make their way to and from work which they depend on. No work no pay, no transport no work no pay. So you consign them to wait at bus stops fighting with each other to get on. Your statistic is abhorrent.

    “Yes, strikes inconvenience people – by definition. I’ve never yet met a striking worker who wanted to be out,” – Most travelling Londoners won’t be fobbed off with this blatent lie. Everybody knows strikes have coincided with sporting events and holiday periods. I wonder how many of the srikers topped and tailed the disruption with a few days off.

    “There’s a peculiar lack of self awareness out there of people who are outraged at being delayed from doing the things they want to do in their leisure time, or their family lives for one whole day.” – More guilt tripping bullshit. Most people just want to get to work and home again.

    “Let me guess, your boss hasn’t told you recently that you’re going to be working all night next Saturday night, and doing it on your own? Thought not.” – WRONG I have been told in the past the deadline must be met even if it means staying all night (without extra pay) I don’t think I’m alone in this. More guilt tripping bollocks.

    Sorry John Wood – your lies and crappy, ‘matey’ socialist claptrap hasnt fooled me. Thos people earning 50 thousand pounds a year and have been offered more money big bonuses and all sorts of concessions should be ashamed of themselves as most of the public see a greedy bunch throwing their toys out of the pram for even more greed and money. NO SYMPATHY

  21. Fraser
    Aug 6th 2015, 5:48 pm

    Bullcrap, you are a dickhead.

  22. David Mann
    Aug 6th 2015, 7:13 pm

    The sooner we get driverless trains the better

  23. ronnie
    Aug 6th 2015, 8:12 pm

    In solidarity with the RMT and all those on the picket lines, keep up the fight for what “others” before you fought for, “home life balance” .Workers before Profits.

  24. ocube
    Aug 6th 2015, 10:13 pm

    As someone who used to work as a station assistant for LUL and resigned my RMT membership, you really don’t know what you are talking about.

  25. Paul
    Aug 6th 2015, 10:37 pm

    That is a very one sided opinion and view of the issues.

    I would like the author to write the same article based on the view from the other side.

    What are the downsides of the strike?
    Why do they need to strike?
    Which other professions are not allowed to strike and why?

  26. Fay
    Aug 7th 2015, 8:47 am

    Ocube – nice to see that someone who actually worked within the ‘lion’s den’ can say this is for want of a better word ‘tosh’!

    There are some very good points but I really do disagree with their need to strike. The fact that there are station assistants being paid over £30k starting (which may be after training) compared to a healthcare practitioner who has to go to university (pay for tuition fees) and then get paid less than that for more hours and a lot more work I just cannot get behind this argument for strike action.

    Paul – I would LOVE to see Mr Wood write the same article from the other side – that would be amazing. Please Mr Wood can you do this maybe from the perspective of a nurse?

    Now that the strike is officially over I’m sure the people who’s family lives or personal lives as you have put it so aptly have got over themselves and gone back to work. That being said however i’m sure most of them are thinking about how they will have to repay hours, work extra hours to pay for the cab charges or congestion charges that TFL funnily enough didn’t waive for a day just so they could get to work.

    Have a great day everyone :)

  27. Ad
    Aug 7th 2015, 10:58 am

    The DLR works fine. It even worked during the strike. We are soon to get the first versions of driverless cars, how have we not got driverless tubes. I understand the need for train drivers, but not the tube. Technology is coming, and going on strike highlights how old fashioned the current system is.

    Also, give a thought to all the bus drivers that were put under pressure by the strikes.

    Let’s all please stop banker bashing, if we are going to start bleating on about overpaid, greedy swines can’t we just use football players. They are a much better example of greed and ludicrous pay demands.

  28. Steve
    Aug 7th 2015, 11:43 am

    People make it sound that being a driver is easy. They have to remain alert and aware for safety.

    How many of you have had the horror of dealing with injured or dead bodies on the track via suicide or accident. I was a firefighter and saw the shock and sadness on their faces and the stress involved that it could happen at any time.

    There is more to this job than pushing buttons and sitting at home plus it’s not just about the drivers but all the staff many of whom are low paid and with shift changes without notice will lead to family stress a lack of social life and expensive child care meaning they earn less and quality of life is less.

    But to you ignorant people who think about the inconvenience it creates for yourselves you need to read the facts not what you wish to debate based on biased opinion.

  29. Sarah
    Aug 7th 2015, 4:16 pm

    get rid of the unions ! I got paid for a 37 hour week but worked up to 60 hours a week for no extra money. these militants should be reined in.

  30. Kris
    Aug 7th 2015, 10:40 pm

    Sarah if you did that then more fool you and if you had a union then you would most likely have been paid full, Dont kick the other guy down just because you have

  31. Affected
    Aug 13th 2015, 1:42 am

    The sooner we get a ban on strikes the better. There is no wonder that the UK has an issue with productivity falling behind other countries when the Capitol can be left without a functional transportation infrastructure on the whim of the unions. Your actions are seriously hurting the economy which we all rely upon one way or another to pay our mutual wages – privat and public sector workers alike. It is highly irresponsible for you to walk out and talk about the impact as some sort of minor ‘inconvenience’ when the real net effect of your actions is hundreds of million pound of losses which will be felt by private people, small and large businesses alike! would it ‘inconvenience’ you if I stole your wallet tomorrow and blamed it on me having received bad news about changing terms and conditions at my workplace?

    When it comes to remnueration and why people are less than compassionate to your pleas for higher pay – maybe you should benchmark pay against equivalent jobs in other countries and see if you still feel justified in demanding more pay. A quick google of pay for tube drivers in Sweden revealed that they are paid on average £22k / year. See link: http://www.lonestatistik.se/loner.asp/yrke/Tunnelbaneforare-1158

    And before you start blaiming cost of living, Stockholm’s property market is red hot as well and cost of living in Sweden is notoriously high. And taxes are higher in Sweden.

    Finally, when it comes to standing up for your rights – are the changes to the contract legal? Employment law is where I would turn if a standard grievance process does not suffice to settle any dispute over changing conditions. Striking on the other hand is about as crude a tool as one can think of – it’s like believing that negotiations are best conducted at gun point! What is next if the strikes do not acheive the desired effect? Maybe civil disobedience and random violence? Just because you have the right to strike – which you really shouldn’t have considering the dependencies society has on a functioning transportation service – does not mean that you have to exercise it!

  32. vader_art
    Aug 20th 2015, 5:24 pm

    Businesses, workers, students, children, tourists, bus drivers… the list of innocent affected people goes on. So stop moaning and get on it with the job like everyone else.