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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