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September 05, 2007


Mark Wadsworth

Yes, blame Brown by all means.


1. As a rabid libertarian, I support people's right to strike, and similarly employers' right to summarily dismiss strikers.

2. A traditional strike is workers v employers. If people at a car plant strike, then customers might have to wait longer for their new car, but so what? It is the employer who suffers.

3. This strike is overpaid railway workers v general public. We, the taxpayers and commuters are being blackmailed, either way we are f***ed - either we suffer this strike or we hand over more of our hard earned money.

4. Why don't Metronet just take on 2,300 more engineers? How long does it take to train somebody to tighten up a few bolts here and there? Then they can make the strikers redundant.


"Why don't Metronet just take on 2,300 more engineers?"

I take it, since the work's so easy and the wages are so good, you'd be put yourself forward for the odd evening?

Bob B

"a strike would be little problem if people worked at home"

Perhaps a more intriguing question is why, with all the available communications technology and low-cost PCs and webcams, homeworking has made so little headway?

Perish the thought but could it be that there are real mutual benefits from working together with colleagues in an office rather than staying at home and communicating almost exclusively by electronic means?

Mark Wadsworth

Neil, no I wouldn't, but surely there are more than 2,300 healthy unemployed adults in London who would jump at the chance?


Shame, I reckon you'd be really good at it, what with knowing it all already.


"This strike is overpaid railway workers..."

Not so. As the Independent reports today: "A Metronet maintenance worker works at night, deep underground in grim conditions on a network that has been allowed to deteriorate for too long, for wages of between £25,000 and £30,000 per annum." (1)

You think those people are overpaid? It's a job for skilled workers, working anti-social hours, in dangerous conditions, on which public safety depends and in the second most expensive city in the world(2). And you're arguing that they're paid too much? They're paid too little, in my opinion and they're right to strike to defend their terms and conditions, upon part of which (skills, remuneration, security, etc.) public safety and the successful operation of the London Underground depend.

(1) http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article2927069.ece
(2) http://www.citymayors.com/features/cost_survey.html

john b

20% higher than the median wage doesn't seem all that bad for a semi-skilled job, even if the hours do suck.

Anyway, my take is here:

On the presenteeism point: how many jobs in London are the kind of not-very-social-network-y writing-based jobs that could just as easily be done at home, and how many are more like welding rails in Tube tunnels? It's easy for writers, academics and analysts to exaggerate the benefits of home working, purely because it works fine for them...

Mark Wadsworth

OK, John B, I take back the "overpaid" bit.

Mark Wadsworth

Damn! Make that "Max, I take back the 'overpaid' bit", John B and I appear to be in broad agreement (which is unusual and hence refreshing).


I rather suspect that Bob Crow and the train drivers get a lot of flak because we know that they get paid relatively large wages for a job which requires you to stand at the front of a train and turn a handle. Yes, it involves lots of antisocial hours - in the view of pretty much everyone I know, this is amply compensated by the current wages.

There never seem to be a shortage of applicants for tube driver jobs, either, so the market would seem to agree that 30K for turning a handle at 5am is at least adequate compensation. It pays better than most shift-work.

The tube is also in a rather different situation from, say, a car factory. The tube has a monopoly on fairly quick public transport in London. A tube strike doesn't have the appearance of a legitimate dispute between workers and employers - it looks rather more like a cartel of workshy tube drivers trying to extort more money out of the taxpayer.


"Why, then, is it the RMT that attracts all the flak, rather than government or bosses?"

Because the RMT called the strike.

And who, ultimately, will pay for their demands?

john b

Sam: the current strike has sod-all to do with tube drivers; it's to do with the guys who do the heavy lifting...


"for wages of between £25,000 and £30,000 per annum." P'raps, but I learned many things in my years in industry and one is that you never believe public accounts of how much the workers are paid. I remember one strike being averted when the company threatened to write to the workers' wives and tell them how much their husbands were making.

all your teeth are belong to us

I used to get annoyed by public transport in the UK.
Now I just laugh.
I have moved to Switzerland though.
Ha ha!

Peter Risdon

Yes, it would be good to see less ideology - the sort of thinking that, for example, out of a Marxist blindness, blames presenteeism on capitalism even though it can be observed under any system that has been seen in the world, including communism.

Tom Mills

"I'm gonna take my bike,
Cos once again the tube's on strike,
THe greedy bastards want extra pay,
for sitting on their arse all day,
even though they earn 30k..."

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