Anti-union press wants train staff to act like robots. But who is the real bully here?

The mask slips from the Tory press as it attacks the 'tyranny' of train unions


The Tory press really, really doesn’t like tube strikes. Or so it would seem. Because if you read their arguments, what they actually dislike is train staff who won’t be pushed around.

Let’s start with the Times. The paper’s story today, ‘Unions threaten summer of chaos’, does an excellent job of not saying why train staff are striking.

(Why are they striking? In short, it’s not really about pay. They don’t want over-worked staff having to work even more nights and weekends when tubes go 24 hours, and oppose cutting staff at stations, which they say will damage the service to commuters.)

The Times instead saves all the information for a little data box, where it helpfully lists the salaries of all the union heads, (as if that is remotely relevant to a dispute over train staff’s working conditions).

After a thoroughly slanted Q&A, which presents Transport for London’s version of events, it has two short sentences about shifts and night work, (presented as unreasonable demands).

That’s the more balanced coverage.

The Telegraph calls RMT members ‘bullies and those commuting to work their victims’.

It then encourages train staff to get used to being treated as poorly as private sector workers!

“People want to use the network at night and it must represent value for money. In other words, the service has to embrace modernisation. So, too, must its employees – just as millions in the private sector have done while receiving much lower pay and far fewer benefits.”

What a tantalising offer! If I worked for TfL, passages like this would have me joining a union by nightfall.

The Daily Mail welcomes the government’s coming laws that will impose a 50 percent turnout limit for any strike action, saying this will ‘end the tyranny of union leaders’ and ‘prevent a cabal of militant, knuckle-headed rail unions from inflicting travel misery on London’.

Presumably the Mail is unaware this strike received 90 percent support from more than a 50 percent turnout of union members.

Some of the pieces have a menacing tone.

Daily Express editorial, which reads as if its author was falling asleep while writing it, calls the unions ‘babies’ and the dispute a ‘tantrum’, before adding: ‘This blackmail cannot be allowed to continue’.

The Telegraph threatens the mass sacking (or ‘voluntary redundancy’) of tube staff and their replacement with robots:

“There are alternatives to the RMT’s bullying. Last year, Transport for London unveiled the design of automated trains. Robots would present one obvious advantage. They do not go on strike.”

It sounds as if the Telegraph would prefer workers behave like robots.

This kind of ‘bullying’ and holding workers to ransom is why we have unions in the first place.


For more on what’s wrong with the press coverage of the strike, see this excellent piece from Workers’ Liberty.

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

Read more: 

The Sun won’t tell you why train staff are striking. So we will

Tory press takes the side of the bosses with its anti-union bias

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13 Responses to “Anti-union press wants train staff to act like robots. But who is the real bully here?”

  1. Jacko


    You must be joking.

    Average hours worked per week = 35
    Maximum days worked in a row = 5
    Annual leave days = 43

  2. Jacko

    For the truth about tube drivers, have a look at this article in The Independent.–49k-salary-43-days-off-a-year-and-a-36hour-week-10379113.html

    Left Foot Forward is not telling the truth.

  3. AndyApples

    You sound like a typical member of the public!
    The maximum days worked in a row is 5 is it? If you have a Sunday/Monday Rest Days one week and a Tuesday/Saturday Rest Days the following week, how is that a maximum 5 days work?

    You total idiot – go back to school & learn how to count! (I’ll save you the trouble, it’s actually 7 days on the trot)

  4. AndyApples

    It’s about time ignoramuses such as yourself obtained the FACTS & not what Johnson & the Tory controlled media want you to believe.

    Go away & get the FACTS of this dispute and then you’ll be in a much better position to judge.

    Lastly, if the job/pay/leave/conditions etc are so wonderful, then apply to be a tube driver and leave your current bullshit job and take a gamble. The truth hurts sometimes!

  5. Charlatans

    Just noted Guido website got article running – not very favourable to Tube drivers:

    This Youtube gives the old rates of £30 k a year (2005/6?)- a mate of mine reckons they now get £50k pa and 42 days off a year plus bonus – 36 hour week. Surely that must be some mistake?:

  6. Rick

    Starting salary for a tube driver is just under £50,000

    Seems to me that these people are in the banker class when it comes to greed !!!

  7. stevep

    The Tory press is trying to ape their right-wing good, left-wing bad, anti- union stance of the 1980`s.
    Then, they were determined to wean the working classes off collectivisation and install an “I`m all right Jack!” mentality in it`s place.
    It worked then because newspapers were more widely-read than they are now and working people generally less well educated.
    In 2015 people are better able to access alternate points of view via the internet and are more selective in what they believe.
    Sites like Left Foot Forward do a grand job in counteracting Tory press distortions.

  8. Cole

    Of course there’s no way theTories and their press will tell us the facts. It’s not what they do.

  9. stevep

    If you were flying, would you want the pilot to be well trained, happy, decently paid, have proper time off etc. Of course you would, so would anyone. Your life is their hands.
    Ditto train and tube drivers.
    To be a train driver you have to undergo one of the most rigorous and demanding recruitment training processes in any industry, with mental and psychological assessments, batteries of tests to see how well you concentrate, react and deal with given situations. If you are accepted into training you are really special, for only 1-in-400 succeed.
    You then have to learn to be self-disciplined, handle responsibility and apply safety-critical procedures without supervision. If then, after a few months you have demonstrated competence in signalling procedures, electronics, maintenance, route learning and driving 100 ton plus locomotives with rolling stock at speed and stopping them ok, then you might become a train driver. Many fail. those that succeed work varied shifts including nights.
    In short, being a train driver is a highly skilled job that only a relative few are qualified to do.
    Of course they deserve commensurate wages or salaries. They earn it.
    We should be grateful for their skill and experience every time we take the train.

  10. Keith M

    Democracy is ill served by the shambles calling itself the press in this country. Most controlled by non doms and let’s not forget the mail’s nazi appeasement policies in the 30’s.

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  13. Patrick Nelson

    Bo*******, the average is a totally misleading fugure to use. People are typically either working more hours than are good for their health or in part time occupation that leaves them economically insecure.

    Furthermore I know people who officially work around average hours and have those leave days, but the hours and leave days are often arranged in such a way as to leave very little time for family life or holidays.

    When shifts are constantly changing and difficult and leave days are only available in tiny chunks then people can end up with a situation where they have no life outside work, whilst still on paper falling within legal working hours.

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