The dinosaur way of working of the railroad union belongs in the museum of industrial relations

For much of his legal career, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer preferred to prosecute rather than defend himself.

The former prosecutor seems more comfortable pointing the finger.

In its present financial condition, the railroad would not survive a month as an ordinary commercial organization


In its present financial condition, the railroad would not survive a month as an ordinary commercial organizationPhoto credit: Getty

Perhaps that is why he is so muddled in defending his position on next week’s damaging and unnecessary national rail strikes and seven days of misery for millions of working people, patients trying to reach a hospital and students taking their A levels and GCSEs promises.

Starmer was repeatedly asked in Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday whether he supported the largest railway union, the RMT, in a labor dispute.

His answer was a masterpiece of legal transgression.

“I don’t want the strikes to continue,” he evaded.

Unlike the die-hard Corbynites in his party, and even members of his shadow front bench like Lisa Nandy and Wes Streeting, Sir Keir knows this strike is madness. But he doesn’t have the bottle to say that.

Damage to an economy still thriving after two years of the pandemic, damage to ordinary workers who do not have the ability to work from home, damage to thousands of Covid-stricken businesses, from theaters to cafes to… to rail freight-dependent heavy-haulage companies.

And damaging too for a rail sector that was only saved from collapse during lockdown by the injection of £16billion in taxpayers’ money – that’s £600 for every household in the country.

Make no mistake, in its present financial condition, the railroad would not last a month as an ordinary commercial organization.

Our network costs around £20 billion a year to run and in the year to April 2021 revenue from tariffs, freight and other sources was just £4 billion.

Even RMT chief Mick Lynch and his hard-left lieutenants can find out.

Its 40,000 railway members would be out of work without the £16 billion provided by taxpayers, of whom around 90 per cent take the train less than once a week.

Since the pandemic, the railways have lost a quarter of their passengers.

Only six percent of rail commuters want to return to the office five days a week. Business meetings are moving online.

But some of the RMT executives live in a different world – a Jurassic period populated largely by dinosaurs.

They believe they can demand a substantial raise without promising to reform outdated labor practices that should belong in the Industrial Relations Museum.

You may have noticed that trains usually run seven days a week.

But under an agreement dating back to 1919 – that’s right, 103 years ago – Sunday work is always treated as overtime on most rail lines.

So if not enough staff want to do a Sunday, the services are simply cancelled.

Only 12 percent of train tickets are sold at ticket offices because it is much easier to pay contactless and online.

Also less confusing. You will always be charged the correct rate. That’s why we use contactless at another 900 stations.


But we still have almost the same number of advance booking offices as in the days when almost 100 percent of the tickets were sold there.

The quietest box office sold 17 tickets in three months. For real.

But we’re not just asking RMT members to change – we’re cutting the number of senior managers and their salaries.

Mr Lynch justified the strike by saying the rail companies and Network Rail, which operates the route, are unwilling to negotiate wages.

Completely untrue. There’s a reasonable pay rise, but it can’t keep up with the inflationary crisis we’re currently suffering from – or that inflation is going to last longer.

And remember, railroad workers have done very well over the last decade of wage increases

Train drivers earn £59,000, and some for just a four-day week.

The average wage for all railway workers is £44,000 – £13,000 more than that for nurses.

The RMT also claims that safety is being impacted by cuts in track maintenance staff.

However, this ignores the fact that modern camera-equipped trains can monitor rails for possible cracks far more accurately than the human eye, and this technology saves workers from the dangerous task of manually inspecting rails.

So this is a premature strike based on false claims.

We, as a government, firmly believe that rail is an important national asset that should enable safe, comfortable and increasingly environmentally friendly travel in the coming decades.

5 Prehistoric Union Rules

  1. WALK ASSISTANCE Employees have extra time to reach their restrooms during a break
  2. HOLD IT BOSS Workers are allowed to resume their breaks if managers interrupt them to speak to them
  3. STAY IN YOUR TRACK engineers allowed
    Carry out repairs only in your own area
  4. MANUAL CONTROLS Despite automatic sensors on the trains checking the tracks for defects, workers are still being sent on foot along the tracks to recheck them
  5. NO SUNDAYS The whole day is still considered “overtime” with big plugs to get staff to work

That’s why we’re spending £96 billion to modernize the network.
No government in British history has done this.

But we need to modernize both minds and infrastructure. We can’t let the dinosaurs win.

That’s why we’re exploring the possibility of using safety-qualified – and only safety-qualified – personnel to cover different parts of the network during strikes.

That is why we firmly believe that strikers will not be able to top up shrunken wage packages with overtime in the days between and after the walkouts.

For this reason, we are considering new laws in the longer term that require a minimum level of service during strikes.

I believe in the railroad. That is why we must win this battle – to save them from stagnation and decline.

In truth, Mr. Lynch and his executive are not just fighting rail management or the government.

They fight against a better future for their members and the country.

You fight against reality. The dinosaur way of working of the railroad union belongs in the museum of industrial relations


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