Well the two day RMT Strike which brought misery and inconvenience to millions of Londoners and visitors to the capital is over and the “reviews” are in. Inconvenience it certainly brought to those who work in the capital but it brought misery to the elderly, the disabled and those who were travelling for hospital and medical appointments. And it brought hardship to temporary workers who lost money by being unable to work unlike the secure well remunerated jobs with final salary pensions of those who caused the disruption.
The RMT Tube Strike caused major disruption in London Town in the morning rush hour on the first day and the public view was the Capital being held to ransom by small group who are England’s equivalent of the Teamsters! The alternative travel arrangements in London were pants! – Bus lanes were blocked with deliveries; there were road works all over the place and empty tourist buses just parked with no customers blocking the red buses full to the gunwales. Londoner’s need joined up Government and planning – not what we have seen during the strike – All soundbite and waffle with no reality on the ground. Worst of all was the World Cup qualifier at Wembley where Wembley Stadium Station was closed from midday to “avoid” overcrowding despite three train companies being scheduled to run trains to the station for the match.
On the Wednesday morning Chiltern railways lost the Aylesbury Line through Amersham because the LU signal box at Amersham wasn’t manned and despite assurances the same thing happened next morning when Harrow on the Hill signals were not manned. Getting to Marylebone from Princes Risborough on the first morning of the strike the Underground station was firmly closed. I made the mistake of getting the No. 453 bendy bus but congestion was woeful in London with road works and deliveries on Red Routes (legal up to 11 am and not suspended during the strikes) and the Bendy being torturous in heavy traffic. I abandoned the bus and walked the rest of the way across London in heavy rain.
But what a difference a day makes. This morning (Thursday) Marylebone Underground was open and trains were running freely on the Bakerloo, Jubilee and most Tube Lines. Clearly the strike had lost support, more were coming to work and the situation improved as the day went on. What also was striking were the Tube staff talking to and helping passengers who clearly appreciated those who kept the service running.
Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said he “deplored” the Tube strike, as services slowly returned to normal following the 48-hour walkout. The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) action ended at 1859 BST but Transport for London (TfL) said a full service would not resume until Friday morning.
Liberal Democrat Lord Bradshaw called the behaviour of RMT leader Bob Crow and strikers “utterly reprehensible”. The walkout followed a breakdown in pay talks with London Underground (LU). Further talks between the LU and RMT – which wants a 5% pay rise and a promise of no compulsory redundancies – will be held next week to try to end the dispute.
During a Lords debate on public transport, Lord Adonis said: “I deplore the underground strike in London today and urge the RMT to engage constructively with Transport for London to ensure that there is no repetition.” Lord Bradshaw said: “The behaviour of Mr Crow and the RMT is utterly reprehensible. There are mechanisms for dealing with disputes. People working on the Underground are well paid and they have long holidays. The strikers’ behaviour has been pretty disgraceful.”
He added: “Londoners are being held to ransom and many people who are in fear of losing their jobs are making extraordinary efforts to get to work because they think that if they are missed for a couple of days they can be missed for a good deal longer.”
On Thursday Mr Crow accused London mayor Boris Johnson of “playing politics” with the Tube by deliberately intervening to scupper a last-minute deal. Mr Johnson said the allegation was “completely untrue”. Union boss Bob Crow today gloated over the “success” of the Tube strike as he threatened more walkouts. The RMT leader said his members could launch fresh industrial action as early as two weeks’ time – despite signs of the strike crumbling. Many picket lines were deserted today and London Underground managed to run trains on nine out of 11 lines.
But millions of commuters were caught up in gridlock as central London took the brunt of the disruption. Mr Crow turned up for a picket line at Queen’s Park on the Bakerloo line, which was running a limited service. He boasted about the industrial action. “I’m really pleased. It was a solid success,” he said. “The whole city ground to a halt and the disruption it caused was all over the papers.”
Mayor Boris Johnson said the number of trains running showed the lack of support for the strike. He paid tribute to staff who had crossed picket lines to go to work as well as to the number of Londoners who had used crowded buses and trains to keep London operating. He said it showed the weakness in the RMT’s case and criticised Mr Crow for “moving the goal posts”. Mr Johnson said: “I do apologise for the trouble that has taken place and I think it is very sad, but I urge the RMT to come to their senses and to do the right thing and call off the strike.”
“The people in London have shown fantastic resolve by going to work in such fantastic numbers. This is a testament to the weakness and fragility of the strike. The RMT have greatly undermined themselves by this action.”
The hefty six-footer Bob Crow has a reputation for picking his battles well and the RMT is one of the few unions with a growing membership. According to the latest TUC figures it has 75,906 members. But after the half-cock response to the latest 48-hour Tube walkout serious questions are being asked about his judgment.
Aslef, the rival Tube union, said today: “It seems Bob Crow is now doing his best to annoy fellow trade unions.” Officially Aslef describes the strike as “premature” but the private language is more colourful. A hint of RMT rebellion emerged in the voting figures. Of 10,000 eligible to vote, just 2,810 supported the strike call with 488 against. The rest took the easy way out and didn’t bother -although they will, of course, accept any increased pay and working conditions improvements won by the union. Just before the strike started Mr Crow said: “We know that it will receive solid support from RMT members across the Tube network.” No, it hasn’t. It was a rare misjudgement by Mr Crow.
The last two Victoria line strikes, in support of sacked train driver Carl Campbell, have closed the line completely. It’s a different picture now: Mr Crow quietly slipped in a third strike on the Victoria line today to run in conjunction with the main dispute. This strike was only announced to LU, as the union is legally required to do, and not to passengers. The Victoria line is an RMT stronghold but today trains ran along a major part of the route – Victoria to Seven Sisters – where Mr Crow was on early morning picket line duty.
Past network-wide strikes have seen a total shutdown. Compare that with today: during this morning’s peak 120 trains ran out of a possible 522; by lunchtime the figure had increased to 140 out of a usual 420. London Underground stated: “We have had lots of drivers turning up.” Did that include RMT members? “It must do by the number of people who have reported for duty,” said LU. This encouraged even more staff to return to work today, the second half of the stoppage. Union observers ask whether Mr Crow has been bounced into a self-defeating dispute by his even more far-Left fellow officials. There seems to be no immediate threat to his leadership in the absence of a credible alternative. But his reputation as a union general that chooses his battle grounds wisely and normally delivers a victory has been badly damaged.