It is the largest walkout on the London Underground since 2002, as more than 20,000 workers went on strike Wednesday 8 June for 24 hours over pay and the impending night shifts.
The dispute over a new night service has led to as widespread travel disruption including huge queues for packed buses and many commuters resorting to cycling or walking into work.
Strikes are often used by Unions as a megaphone to voice to the general public, grabbing their attention by shoving an issue in their faces. In fact, Abchurch argued in February last year during the RMT 48 hour strike, that strikes are a PR stunt –‘welcoming the flies of press to the churning honey-pot of an issue’.
This may be true, but we have noticed a shift in feeling towards the Tube strike (that intended to decapitate the Capital for 24 hours) this time around, which leads us to ask the question: will the strike achieve any positive results for the RMT?
It feels like there is some form of transport strike or at least a threat of one every month in the UK. This might be slightly exaggerated, but with the cancelled National Rail strike in May, it feels too soon for there to be another similar event. This immediately decreases the public’s patience, resulting in people turning on the RMT instead of the Government (for not resolving the issue) which consequently severely reduces the impact of the message which Tube drivers (or whoever happens to be striking) wish to deliver.
In this case, the issue lies in the fact that the 24-hour Tube service, due to begin in September, will wreck the work/life balance of Tube workers. However so far this PR stunt seems to have backfired on the RMT, as the issue has been engulfed by the ‘pay increase’ subject, which has much of the press and the population believing that Tube drivers are overpaid in the first instance.
The Telegraph’s Toby Young described the situation as being ‘difficult to feel a huge amount of sympathy for the striking Tube workers[…]who have rejected a two per cent pay rise and a £2000 bonus for working on the all-night service, [and] start their working life on a salary of £49,673, which is more than some hospital doctors earn.’
Not only is this more than double the starting salary of Britain’s nurses, teachers, policeman and firefighters but according to Business groups, this strike will have cost the Capital tens of millions of pounds. Is it so surprising that London appears to be fed up of striking public services?
We conclude with three positives to take away from this week’s Tube strike:
1) Many of us either were lucky enough to work from home, or able to enjoy the fresh air by walking/cycling to and from work.
2) It adds weight to the new strike law the Government intends to introduce. Under the new proposal, a strike affecting vital public service would require the backing of 40 per cent of union members – a threshold this week’s action didn’t meet.
3) There shouldn’t be another strike for at least another six months!