Simon Calder, also known as The Man Who Pays His Way, has written about travel for The Independent since 1994. In his weekly opinion column, he explores a key travel question – and what it means for you.
Unlike Mick Whelan, leader of the train drivers union, I don’t think the government is bent on destroying the railroads. But if ministers really want to entrust the industry, they can’t expect better allies.Bromance of Brexit-successful right-wing Conservatives and left-wing unions has undercut rail’s appeal and reliability over the past 200 days Most destructive national rail strike since 1980s.
Let me start by saying the major railroad unions — Aslevrepresenting the train driver, and RMT Its members have many other roles – excellent negotiators over the past quarter century, receiving above-average salary increases while the railroad industry boomed. They are now understandably frustrated with the offer of raises that are well below the rate of inflation and contingent on fundamental changes to the way work is done.
“Corrupt, immoral and disgusting” – that’s how Mr Whelan described the train operator he was negotiating withHe used the term when I spoke to him ahead of the pay offer from the Rail Transport Group (RDG), which represents the employer, later on Friday. The deal is sure to be mandated by ministers and includes a 4% rise last year and another 4% this year, conditional on a series of changes to the way work is made.
Aslef’s secretary general and his members are more likely to be enraged by the proposal than seduced. If the current form continues, instead of calling for a vote on the deal, they will launch another strike in retaliation: They will stomp their feet and shake the magic cash cow demanding taxpayer cash once again.
Opposite the RMT, Secretary Mick Lynch argues: “Money [to fund a double-digit pay rise] It’s always been there, but it’s been marinated by a bunch of profiteers and their associates in the government. ’ He insisted the fight was still going on.
RMT members are network rail 20 of the last 200 days have gone on strike, losing thousands of pounds by exercising their (currently) legal right to stop work.Perhaps the most successful of these shutdowns, in terms of causing the most pain, were Christmas out.
You may recall the union saying: “The latest strike date will affect engineering work, not train services.” Are there better examples of self-harm? A union that relies on a functioning rail system with maximum capacity and speed and minimum signal and point failures has come up with a brilliant strategy to sabotage £120m of much needed and long-term planned improvement projects.
The outage doesn’t just worsen the outlook for future passengers. Many theaters in London’s West End were empty during matinee screenings on Christmas Eve as many spectators needed to catch the last train home at around 3pm. boxing day, 43 eurostar International trains linking London with Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris have been cancelled, to the delight of airlines, and fares soared when more than 20,000 passengers suddenly found their travel plans torn up.
Meanwhile, the government is colluding to prolong the endless and exhausting sequence of strikes, strikes, and more strikes. The controversial issue of driver control of train doors was added to RDG’s proposal to RMT in late November – leading to its inevitable immediate rejection.
When some sort of deal is eventually struck, it will broadly involve about 6% plus 5%, with an additional boost for the lowest earners — and Generous family discount scheme potentially worth thousands of pounds for Network Rail staffBut the value of this perk could soon start to decline if train frequency and the extent of the rail network start to shrink.
When I spoke to Aslef’s Mick Whelan, he accused the government of wanting to put the railways “into a manageable decline”. If passengers continue to be driven away by this fierce confrontation, decline is inevitable. But who knows how it will be managed?