Unions, Strikes and Travel Disruption

Posted on December 16, 2022

I run my own little business, so I don’t have a union. However, if I worked for a large corporation or the public sector, I would join one straight away. If you work without representation, you are affectively a slave, hoping things go your way.

Not being in a union means I am not an expert in how they operate. However, as I understand it, members vote for a leader and that leader represents them. When there is discontent over working conditions, redundancies or rates of pay, the leader represents the members against the paymasters. If the union leader recommends striking as the last solution to solve an ongoing issue, the members are then asked to vote for, or against, taking action.

So, despite what you may read about them being nasty firebrand commies, union leaders are elected in a democratic process, along with several other key roles. See below.

  • president (or equivalent)
  • general secretary (or equivalent)
  • members of the executive
  • positions that automatically mean that the holder is a member of the executive
  • any position which entitles a person to attend and speak at meetings of the executive (unless the person only provides information or specialist advice to help the executive carry out its business.

Mick Lynch Salary

There is a lot of talk of RMT boss, Mick Lynch, being on a salary of £80,000 per year. The accusation in The Sun is that this hardly makes him a man of the people. You will also see this kind of diatribe in right wing newspapers such as The Express and The Daily Mail. Forget that approximately £5 billion pounds of public money has been sucked out of the railway industry, Mick Lynch is the real villain. The Sun says so.

Still, £80,000 a year is a good salary, more than double the national average. It is not as good as the £587,000 salary the boss of Network Rail gets but let’s not be pedantic. Let’s take a look at what the members get back from the man they elected to represent them. Are they getting value for money for their contribution and Lynch’s wages?

Well, the RMT members who voted him in, will give you better idea of that then I can. However, whenever I hear Mick Lynch talking, there doesn’t seem to be much about his industry he’s is not an expert in. Unlike bankers who become Health Secretaries or Pyramid Salesmen who get the chancellor gig, Lynch, much to the frustration of journalists, appears to know every legal and fiscal aspect of the rail industry. I presume that is why, when the leadership elections took place, the members decided he was the man to represent them and worth his £80k salary. If you are a member of a union, that is a logical thing to do when you’re ticking the voting box.

Striking for Fun

The one thing I always remind myself when workers go on strike is that they are not doing it for fun. They don’t get paid for being off work and standing on picket lines. So there is no logical reason to strike, other than a feeling they are being exploited. This may be over pay, changes to contracts of employment, or concerns over staff and customer health and safety. It is not always about pounds shillings and pence.

As an individual who used to use the train when I was working in London a lot, I was always nervous about public sector contractors running the railways. I didn’t like the idea of being driven to work by companies whose first objective is to satisfy shareholders. This inevitably leads to the cutting of costs to maximise profit. “Leave the track maintenance for another year chaps, the shareholders need a pay out”.

Remembering Democracy

So the next time you see Mick Lynch or any other union leader on the TV, remember one thing. He is a democratically elected leader. He is representing action that has been agreed by a democratic vote. The current leader of The Conservative party, Rishi Sunak, is not a democratically elected leader. He did not even win a The Conservative party election featuring 20,000 members. They voted for Liz Truss, or Liz Fucking Truss, as she is known in my home.

Whether it is postal workers, nurses, railway staff, or the Home Office, who are taking industrial action, they are doing it one way. That is by representation of a democratically elected leader of their respective union. That leader is representing them after a democratic vote to take strike action.

It’s not the worker or the union that represents them in the workplace that is undemocratic. A country where public service workers, by law, have no representation, is a dictatorship. Historically, Fascists have banned unions because they don’t want the people who keep the cogs of a country turning to have a right to representation.

It really is worth remembering that.

1 Reply to "Unions, Strikes and Travel Disruption"

  • Norman House
    December 16, 2022 (10:38 am)

    Yes, agree with all of that, Bob. I was a part-time white collar union rep when I worked in the NHS, many moons ago! We were never in a position where we needed to strike, but having that representation if there was an issue, was in my mind fundamental, particularly in public services.

    My job at the time involved implementing improved processes and implementing incentive bonus schemes, so to some extent had to see things from the other side.

    I always found full-time union reps balanced and level-headed and did the best for their members. Some of the local shop stewards were a bit rabid. I was even spat at by one, called Mrs. Rackstraw who was a local COHSE rep, for having the temerity to introduce an incentive bonus scheme in a district laundry service, which actually increased take-home pay for all but one person (who was claiming 70 hours a week and worked about 30!).

    It involved more standard practices and hours for all. She thought I should let the 70-hour claim continue and pay him bonus on top ;-). She called me management scum along with the spittle. To be fair, she was just one isolated loon.with a massive chip on her shoulder.

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