NB – The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the members or officers of The UK Independence Party (UKIP)
26th December 2011 sees another strike from a Public Sector Union over pay and conditions, this time the members of ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) going on a one day strike to press home their claims for triple pay and an extra day off for working on Boxing Day on the London Underground System.
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan called for a ballot on strike action to pursue this issue with his members, and got just over 50% backing industrial action on a 42% turnout.
TFL (Transport for London) asked for a judicial ruling to stop the strike, but the courts declared it legal and as such the London Underground is operating today on a very limited service – This has impacted on the first day of the sales, a vital lifeline for our hard-pressed retailers in these straightened times, and has also caused the postponement of the Arsenal vs Wolves football match on what has traditionally been a full day of sport going back over many years.
Part of the Christmas tradition for as long as I can remember has been the working man enjoying a day at his chosen sports venue on Boxing Day, taking advantage of the Bank Holiday – Not this year, as Mick’s minions make demands for conditions that most of us can only dream of. One of my cherished memories of Boxing Day was taking my elderly father to see the last ever Hayes vs Yeading local derby match at Church Road, something that Mr Whelan’s union are probably denying to fathers and sons throughout London today.
On a Different Planet
So let us look at the reality of the situation that Mr Whelan (left) is arguing.
His union represent around 50% of the Tube Driver’s on the London Underground. This means that less than one in six tube drivers actually voted to go on strike today.
More to the point, as was eloquently pointed out to Mr Whelan by Nick Ferrari on his Friday morning LBC Radio show, his members already enjoy wages in excess of £40k per year on a working week of well under 40 hours, and get 8 weeks holiday per year (I consider myself well looked after by the company I work for and earn half this amount with half the holiday entitlement).
Mr Whelan’s argument revolves around his member’s ‘right to quality time with their families’, something that we all enjoy and I would venture builds the family bonds that benefit us all as a community. However, surely those family bonds could be built during the 8 weeks holiday his members already receive? Surely, if they are that worried about family life then they would just book holiday or ‘go sick’ on Boxing Day rather than putting in these outrageous pay demands – Demands that would have to be paid from the taxes of the working man in the private sector who earns far less and has far fewer holidays than the tube drivers?
There is also the argument that tube drivers know that part of the job involves working on certain public holidays every year when they take up their position, so why the big song and dance about it now? To put this in to perspective, let’s look at other public sector workers who have to work over the Christmas holiday period and their standard conditions –
Police Constable – £23,259 per year rising to £36,519 per year after 10 years service
Police Sergeant – £36,519 rising to £41,040 per year based on length of service and performance
Police Inspector – £48,840 per year (Capital only, based on London Weighting payment)
Figures from www.police-information.co.uk – Please note that the Police are also not allowed to strike based on their contractual terms.
Firefighter – £21,157 per year rising to £28,199 per year when fully trained
Watch manager,Fire Brigade – £31,940 to £34,961 per year
Station Manager, Fire Brigade – £36,365 to £40,109 per year.
Source – www.prospects.ac.uk, a graduate careers website
NHS Nurse (Band 5) – £21k to £27,625 per year
NHS Nurse Specialist (Band 6) – £25.528 to £34,189 per year
Ambulance Services Driver (Band 3) – £15,680 to £18,827 PA
Senior Paramedic (Band 6) – £25,528 to £34,189 per year
Source – NHS Careers.
Now think to yourself what these public sector workers have to do for a living and how their decisions affect lives, and what the tube drivers do for a living?
Whilst it is a vital job in the public interest, a bus driver has to be far more alert and aware of his surroundings on an open road than a tube driver but still has the same duty of care to his passengers. The bus driver also has to do more than push a lever backwards and forwards to increase and decrease speed and tap a brake to stop. He also has no safety cut outs should he run a red light, and no ‘dead man’s handle’ if he passes out at the controls. Now look at the bus driver’s pay and conditions and those of the tube drivers.
Time to get in to the real world
Mr Whelan posted on the ASLEF website on 20th December that the 5.9% fare increases coming in to effect on our railways next year are unacceptable, under the headline ‘Rail for the Rich’. I would ask him if, in this context, pushing for yet more money for already very well paid train drivers is not contributing to the problem?
Does he also not see that actions such as these diminish the chances of further investment in the railway network, damaging the long term prospects of his members when a co-ordinated transport plan including rail could be put forward as an answer to the congestion problems we are seeing at the moment?
Whilst I don’t agree with the HS2 project, there are other options involving rail that could be put in to action on a limited budget that would bring him many more members on a sensible pay rate boosting both his union coffers and the economy.
Public sector unions and their disconnection from reality
This latest tube strike is just another in a long line, although the last few have been triggered by Mr Whelan’s counterpart at the other rail union, The RMT, Bob Crow (Left)
Mr Whelan is a member of the Labour Party (As confirmed on the ASLEF website), whilst Mr Crow has links to several ‘far left’ organisations.
In one way, you could say that they are doing a great job for their members as official figures show that public sector workers now earn on average 7.5 per cent more than their equivalents in the private sector, and their pension provision is stratospheric compared to those in the open market. However, as I pointed out to our local Labour MP John McDonnell on his website (A comment to one of his posts supporting public sector strikes that he dared not publish), the actions of Union leaders such as Mr Crow may give a short term boost to the pay packets of his members but the knock on effect of increased transport costs and increased taxation to pay for them will lead to more private sector workers losing their jobs, affecting the government’s ability to pay these wages.
Mr McDonnell makes great copy with his tirades against the greed of the corporate bankers and the efforts of the Government to set public sector against private sector workers. What he fails to grasp is that by supporting the likes of Mr Crow in their industrial actions (A man, incidentally, who earns over £100k per year from union donations and lives in a council house that most of his members would not be entitled to) he is fuelling this division in our society and playing in to the hands of the people he claims to oppose. Whilst the salaries and bonuses of the big bankers are obscene and cannot be justified, their companies employ a large part of our private sector economy that funds via taxation the public sector workers who are making these claims for pay increases and protected pensions.
I did not hear the union bosses or Mr McDonnell (right) screaming blue murder when those of us in the private sector had our pension plans destroyed by yet another of then Labour Chancellor Gordon Brown’s tax grabs .
I could be uncharitable and suggest that this may have been down to the Union Bosses giving themselves huge pay rises and increasing their Labour Party donations during the 13 years of the ‘New Labour’ government, but maybe I am being cynical.
What I do know is that they need to look at the situation that our country finds itself in seriously and start accepting that the days of generous pay increases and bloated pensions are over if they truly believe that we need to maintain services without cuts.
Labour increased the public sector workforce by half a million people in the good times without any noticeable improvement in the services provided whilst the private sector workforce saw their wages and job security impacted by the effects of mass immigration in the market place.
Union placemen found themselves well paid jobs within government departments (A Daily Telegraph investigation by Robert Watts earlier this month found 250 such union officials at Whitehall costing the taxpayer at least £5 million per year) whilst their leaders screamed about excesses in the private sector.
A healthy society needs good public sector services with well trained staff dedicated to looking after the general public. They should be highly valued and well remunerated for their efforts, but should never forget that they are there to serve and are not immune to the ups and downs that affect those who pay their wages in the form of taxes.
The attitude of the likes of Bob Crow and Mick Whelan in constantly pushing for industrial action over petty differences does our society no good and harms the community spirit needed to get through the hard times we find ourselves in.
One of my favourite songs of the last 5 years is ‘Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed’ by the English folk group Show of Hands – It was written about the banking crisis and those at the top of the chain who caused so much damage to our economy and society. I pray that in 2012 another group does not feel the need to write a similar tune about the excesses of the TUC affiliated trade unions and their funded puppets within the Labour Party.
What do you think? Are the Trade Unions going too far and pitching public and private sector against each other? Do you think the tube drivers are being unreasonable, or their strike action is the right thing to do? Do you feel that the public sector strikes are justified or that they need to take a long hard look at themselves and count their blessings? Let us know your opinions!