Monday, 26 December 2011

Do The Unions Live In The Real World?

I am beginning to worry that I might be turning into Margaret Thatcher or worse a Daily Mail reader. The signs are all there. Knee-jerk reaction to strikes, criticism of public sector employees and a growing distrust of those lazy "continentals". Sometimes I wake up in the night in a cold sweat with a ghostly image of Mrs T's bouffanted visage licking my face.

Is it the impending spectre of middle age looming on the horizon or is just these austere times forcing us to lash out at those we perceive to have it better then us?

Last week we had our usual lads Christmas drinks meet-up and the normal good humour ended in acrimony after a heated discussion about public pensions turned sour when one of our teacher friends understandably got annoyed at having to work longer, pay more and get less of a pension whilst those that go us into this financial shitstorm seemingly emerging from the fallout without so much as scratch on their Maserati.

Those of us working in the private sector kindly pointed out that final salary pensions disappeared years ago as they were financially unsustainable. In the end everyone "agreed to differ" before punches were thrown.

Of course many public sector workers have the benefit of powerful unions whose sole purpose is to push for better pay and conditions. The reason I even bothered to blog about this today is because of the general strike by London Underground employees, stirred up by Aslef, means that today if you are one of the 90% of people travelling around London by Tube you are fucked.

So are drivers striking about working longer, having salaries cut or supporting sacked work colleagues? No. The union is demanding triple time pay and an extra day off for its employees working on Boxing Day. I think it is about the time to remind you that the average Tube driver earns £42000 a year rising to £52000 in 2015, twice the average wage. This was a deal that was negotiated as far back as October. Of course it extremely taxing and complicated to press a lever and keep a train on the rails so I can understand the need for a high salary.

To me this particular piece of strike action appears to be nothing more then bare-faced greed.

Did the unions spare a thought for their private sector brothers (many of whom don't get anywhere close to earning that amount) who are going to lose out on a days pay because they can't get into work? Bollocks have they.

Howard Collins, London Underground's chief operating officer, told the Today programme the number of drivers scheduled to work this year had been reduced by 200 to improve working conditions for Tube drivers. He added:

"I can't pay people twice. The salary for train drivers, including working Christmas Day and Boxing Day, is an all inclusive salary."

In this day and age when everyone should be knuckling down and getting the work done it is completely irresponsible for unions to throw their toys out the pram and manufacture strikes at the drop of a hat. It costs the economy and it costs those who rely on the public sector. It is almost like the unions have to justify there own existence.

If they are not careful this militant action is going to undermine public sector workers genuine and understandable concerns about their conditions and we will go back to the dark old days of the early 80's.

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