Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Bob Crow is a capitalist

Posted in Customer service, London, Politics by Chairman Pip on 12 May 2011

That got your attention didn’t it 😛

Of course, that banner title was simply a means of drawing you in but, given his apparent acquisitive nature (no matter what he might think he’s doing for his members), you could consider that that is a fair argument. But for another time.

Network Rail and the RMT have announced whatthey both call a “ground-breaking” agreement to ensure no disruption to the railway network during the Olympics; not only will workers receive pay rises that will likely total anything up to 10% over the next two years, but they’ll also receive an additional £500 for working through the Olympic period. Apparently in return, any industrial dispute must be either fast-tracked to conclusion before the Olympics, or else put on hold until September 2012 (presumably after the conclusion of the Paralymics). However, Network Rail will be unable to dismiss any RMT member during the period and, according to the press release, the union reserves “the continuing right to withdraw labour”. So is this really a “no-strike deal” as some people have been making out? Is there any guarantee, in return for their pay rise and bonuses, that the RMT will not try something on? Indeed, while I hate to sound like a Daily Mail reader, why are they being given an additional £500 for simply going to work?

This is a groundbreaking offer. The package recognises the important role that transport workers will be expected to play during the games and rewards them financially, while protecting their union rights at the same time. At this time of austerity we think that £500 extra payments and 10% on the basic represents a good deal and proves that strong union organisation can deliver for the members.

And pray, were union rights under threat? And, does Mr Potato Head not think that, given we are (in his own words) in a “time of austerity”, Network Rail’s (and by extension the taxpayer’s) money would not be better spent in undertaking the repair, maintenance and safety work he and his union always claims is under threat due to lack of money, rather than it going into the pockets of his members? Clearly not.

Contrast this with the attitude of London Underground. While the strikes planned to begin next week have been called off, owing to one of the sacked drivers (over whom the dispute was about) winning his case at an industrial tribunal, there is still a deep seated intrasigence on both sides when it comes to any dispute. Of course, this particular dispute was especially ridiculous, given that the cases of the two sacked drivers had been referred to tribunals, the conclusion of which any half-sane person (even a union leader) would have waited for before going down the route that the RMT went down. Never let it be said though that Mr Potato Head is even half sane. There is criticism that Boris Johnson has never, during his period as Mayor, sat down during any dispute with the unions. While I think this is a fair criticism to make, equally valid is Boris Johnson’s criticism of the government dragging its feet in the reform of union laws to make it harder for militant union leaders like Mr Potato Head to call a strike when only a minority of the membership can even be bothered to vote.

I’m reminded once again of an episode of The West Wing, called Shutdown. In this, President Bartlet has called the bluff of the Republican leadership that controls Congress – having agreed to a 1% budget cut to get the federal budget passed, the Republicans then alter the deal for a 3% cut. By refusing this, the President then dares them to shut down. By doing this, and then gaining the support of public opinion by showing the Republicans to be the ones playing politics with the federal budget, President Bartlet is able to win the day. It makes me wonder what would happen if Boris Johnson were to sweep into negotiations between London Underground and the RMT and say “no more”, and dare the union to call an all out, indefinite strike. Personally, I believe Boris is just brave (or nuts) enough to do that one day. In fact I’d certainly like to see it, and I’ve no doubt a vast majority of the strike weary commuters of London, tired of constant union blackmail, would like to see it too. A bully can only bully you as long as he thinks he has power over you.

“Olympics rail pay deal ‘groundbreaking’”
“Tube strikes called off after talks between RMT union bosses and London Underground”

Is it time for Boris Johnson to call Bob Crow's bluff directly in negotiations?


2 Responses

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  1. Sebastian Mann said, on 4 February 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Hi there, I’m a reporter for a London news website called London24.

    The picture of Boris Johnson and Bob Crow you use in this post – is it yours? If not, please could you tell me where you got it from?

    If so, would you mind us using it on our website (


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