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JP Floru: Time to defeat Bob Crow: will Cameron or Boris grab this Thatcher Moment?

By JP Floru

There is great political capital to be had from defeating Bob Crow’s RMT union. Crow’s sudden, pointless, and highly ineffective strike yesterday was aimed at complying with the requirement that a strike be commenced within 28 days of announcing it. If Crow had not announced a strike, Transport for London would have brought a High Court action to declare the strike illegal and next week’s strikes would have been prevented.

A large part of the 2,750,000 tube users are inconvenienced when the RMT goes on strike. This time the £40,000-salary, 35-hours working week drivers are unhappy because one of theirs has been fired over alleged abusive behaviour to colleagues.  

Tube strikes have a highly disproportionate effect, as this conflict illustrates. It is the natural leverage public sector quasi monopolies benefit from. One can use other transport but that’s much slower, so it’s not really comparable. 

It’s time for a standoff to defeat this militant trade union once and for all. The recipe is simple: the announcement that a driverless tube will be developed. This is not rocket science: we already have it for the Docklands Light Railway. Entirely automated metros already exist in cities like Copenhagen, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai. A large number of cities have some of their metro lines fully automated. What are we waiting for?

Fear of a quasi continuous strike? Weigh this inconvenience against the massive voter support which will be the inevitable reward of any politician who tries to defeat the unions. The RMT is bound to go bust if they go on striking for too long. So victory for the travelling public is a virtual certainty.

Announcing a driverless tube would ensure Boris’s victory in next year’s mayoral elections. But alternatively, Cameron could also claim his Thatcher Moment – by making trade unions financially liable for loss suffered by third parties as a result of strikes. It is not acceptable that third parties who have nothing to do with an employer-employee conflict have to suffer financial loss. Changing the law would once and for all do away with the disproportionate leverage trade unions hold. 


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