Tube strike: your free Metro is spreading myths to discredit the strike

Daily Mail-owned commuter rag implies strike is about holidays. It isn't.


The free morning newspaper Metro, read by commuters in London and elsewhere, has packed more myths about today’s tube strike into a few sentences than seems possible.

Today’s headline reads:

Commuter fury at strikers with 52 days holiday

Metro tube strike 6 8 15

Holiday time is a big part of the coverage of this strike – including in the Telegraphthe Expressand the Daily Mail (which shares an owner with the Metro).

It appears to have been raised by Boris Johnson to discredit the strike, and his pals in the right-wing press have helpfully caught his drift.

A few points on the Metro story blazing out of free papers across the capital:

1. Train staff are not striking over holiday time. 

Today’s strike is the latest in a series of strikes (the last was a month ago) over changes in the terms of train staff’s employment. Primarily, they are concerned that people who already work through the night and on weekends will have to accept more late shifts with the introduction of 24 hour tube services in September.

They are also opposing cuts to staff at stations, which they say will damage the service for commuters, and reject a crumbs-from-the-table offer on pay increases in an economy we are told is ‘growing’.

2. Not all train staff have 52 days holiday

There is a tendency to see what train staff with the best pay and conditions are receiving and take this as representative of all train staff, from drivers to cleaners. Interestingly, this method is never applied to other businesses.

Perhaps this is because in many industries the idea of the best and worst paid workers uniting in an act of solidarity is hard to imagine.

3. Not all tube staff are drivers – most earn nothing like £50,000

See point 2. Many tube workers earn less than half of this figure. Still you’ll see it bandied about everywhere.

4. If you want more holiday time or pay, join or form a trade union

52 days a year? £50,000 salary? Everyone should be so lucky! Instead of begrudging train staff, why not organise and demand this for yourselves and your colleagues?

There is a larger issue worth noticing. The Metro recently published a full page advert from Transport for London putting their side of the story. They then interviewed miffed commuters, presumably with questions like: ‘Do you think it’s right that tube drivers on £50k should strike?’

The answers were as predictable as they could have hoped. (And if they weren’t, the paper could have simply picked the ones they liked.) So there’s your ‘commuter fury’. 

The other element worth noticing is the large showbiz story dominating the same front page today, not surprising perhaps from a paper owned by the Daily Mail group. The cult of celebrity – effectively veneration of aristocracy – is ever present in papers that bash trade unions.

Viscount Rothermere
Mail boss Viscount Rothermere: not your friend

Such is the position of elite institutions like media companies (where only a select few get to work) posing as the carrier of the voice of the ordinary person, in this case against the bully train unions.

This fake populism from a media group headed by a tax-dodging Viscount is a handy cover for turning working people against one another. ‘Why have these greedy train drivers got more than me? My day has been disrupted by their selfishness’ etc.

Meanwhile, relatively democratic institutions like trade unions, which have a far better claim to speak for ‘ordinary people’, are denied their chance to state their case, and denounced – indirectly – by a newspaper that pretends to be your friend.

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

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Read more: 

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

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

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