RMT union's bully-boy tactics leave commuters in perpetual strike misery

Southern rail strike: Brighton economy suffering due to travel chaosIBTimes UK

You have to hand it to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers – or RMT for short. If inflicting misery on rail passengers in Britain were an Olympic sport, we would see Mick Cash, its General Secretary, picking up a gold medal in Rio this week.

The RMT's members who drive London's Tube trains regularly inflict misery on the travelling public by going on strike for the smallest of reasons, but this summer the RMT is managing to inflict even more pain on many more passenger routes than usual.

For those commuters who use Southern Rail, misery isn't just a word – it's how they feel on a daily basis as they try to get to work in the capital using this sick joke of a rail operator. Cancellations and delays are so much a part of everyday life that if by a miracle their train isn't either cancelled or delayed, it's time to get out the bunting. This week, though, for many commuters, it has been impossible for them to get to work via their usual routes as hundreds of services have been cancelled due to strike action.

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If they think they can escape it all by having a couple of days in Paris at the weekend, they are in for a nasty shock – once again courtesy of the RMT. Eurostar staff will walk out from 00:01 BST on 12 August until 23.59 BST on 15 August, and for three days over the UK Bank Holiday weekend from 27 August. The reason for this walkout is because staff are unhappy with their "work-life balance". Try telling that to the customers they are supposed to serve.

If all of this wasn't bad enough, staff working on Virgin Trains East Coast (RMT members, of course), have voted to go on strike. No doubt there are some unlucky people who will have had a horrendous commute all week; a weekend away ruined, and to cap it all off, will face the prospect of more disruption as they try to visit friends and family further north later in the year.

You would think that Dave Anderson, a North East Labour MP and Shadow Scotland Secretary, who uses the Virgin Trains East Coast service on a regular basis, would be trying to calm things down. Nothing of the sort. According to one of his local newspapers, the Newcastle Chronicle, he has written to Virgin demanding they tell him when scabs will be working so he can avoid using the trains. (For those who are unfamiliar with the word, scab is a derogatory word used to describe someone who chooses to fulfil their contractual obligations and work, rather than go on strike.)

I have heard on many occasions that if workers do not have the right to withdraw their labour, they are slaves. If those striking RMT members were unable to end their contracts of employment and find work elsewhere, then they would have my sympathy. But this is not the Britain of William Blake. The dark satanic mills where workers had next to no rights and health and safety was non-existent, are long gone. This is 21<sup>st Century Britain.

On the Statute Book we have numerous pieces of legislation protecting workers' rights – some of the most comprehensive in the world. As for health and safety, I don't think I need to elaborate. A huge industry has ballooned on the back of its myriad legislations. Workers in Britain, when it comes to employment protection and their safety in the workplace, have never had it so good.

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The days lost due to strike action in Britain are tiny in comparison to what it used to be like in the 1970s. To their credit, most trade unions manage to defend their members' interests without constantly resorting to threats. They don't recommend strike action to their members unless they feel it's the last resort. If only that could be said of the leadership of the RMT who seem to delight in their bully boy image.

My message to those who are currently on strike and who are about to take strike action is simple: either find another way to resolve your dispute, or find alternative employment. There are plenty of other people who would love to do your job.


Andrew Allison is Head of Campaigns at The Freedom Association


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