Trade Unions aren't stuck in the past — the Telegraph is
On transport, as on so much else, the Conservative Party is at war with itself. Following revelations that transport secretary Chris Grayling opposed devolution of rail management to TfL because he wanted to keep trains ‘out of the clutches’ of Labour, colleagues have rightly called for his resignation.
So, true to form, the Telegraph editors have decided to divert attention from the Tory shambles by launching a truly old school attack on trade unions.
“The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which represents guards, began walkouts this week; next week is the turn of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef). The sudden importance of such acronyms brings back bad memories of the Eighties. As it was 30 years ago, so today’s union dinosaurs appear motivated less by material concerns than the desire to flex their muscles for political reasons.”
While we’re terribly sorry to hear about the Telegraph’s post-traumatic acronym stress, their argument is entirely baseless.
Strike action in the UK is at a historically low level, and the number of days lost to strikes is just over half the European average, despite the vicious public sector cuts of successive Tory governments, and a decade of stagnating wages.
As for the Telegraph’s claim that we’ve returned to the industrial warzone of the 1980s, it’s about as credible as a Southern Rail timetable. In the current decade less than a tenth as many days are being lost to stoppages as were in the 1980s.
In reality, from the NHS to the railways, unions and workers have bent over backwards to minimise the impacts of austerity and privatisation on service users.
If anyone is stuck in the ’80s, it’s the bad-tempered dinosaurs of the Telegraph newsroom and the Tory backbenches. Despite the extraordinary restraint of unions in recent years, today’s editorial calls for extreme, regressive anti-union action by government: supplying replacement drivers during strikes, taking vexatious legal action against the unions, or even sacking workers who strike.
All this in defence of a private company that — even Tory MPs agree — deserves to be stripped of its franchise.
If the Telegraph really wants to resurrect an ’80s trend, leg warmers, shoulder pads or power ballads might be a better bet.Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.