‘If at first you don’t succeed,: Try, try, try again’, seems to be the message from London’s tube drivers. But how little have they achieved by acting like a band of moody teenagers
Despite being stupidly optimistic about the prowess of the number 4 bus, today – like many commuters – I felt the chaotic impact of the tube strike.
We poor Londoners get so many of them. Almost like a cold, we accept their inevitability each year – hoping in vain that this’ll be the annum we don’t have one.
I was pretty annoyed with tube drivers for ruining my morning (and potentially day) until I saw an article by The Independent outlining the reasons they’ve decided to hang up their neon jackets. I was all ears – ready to listen and find out if being a tube driver really is that bad.
In the piece, Finn Brennan – a seasoned tube driver and lead negotiator for the strikers – says:
“This dispute has never been about money. It’s about the life/work balance for Tube drivers in London”, adding about nightshifts: “Anti-social hours are really unpopular, bad for your health, and extremely disruptive for family life.”
Brennan struggles to convey just what is so terrible about being a tube driver – the article reads as quite vague and, fundamentally, failed to pluck on my heartstrings. The gist of it is that the tube drivers are peeved about their working hours.
I feel bad for them having to do shifts that might cut up family life. I wouldn’t want to do that, either. But then I didn’t decide to be a tube driver. London needs to have one of the most flexible transport systems in the world – surely most of them should have realised that achieving this would have required malleability from recruits.
Tube drivers can hardly whine either because however inconvenient their hours are, they are remunerated very handsomely indeed. With starting wage at £49,673 a year and a generous leave, they’re doing substantially better than others in the public sector – including soldiers, firefighters and teachers.
If you look at the criteria for what makes tube drivers want to go on strike, you realise there are loads of other groups who might also be quite reasonably be inspired to do the same – such as interns, lawyers and dustbin collectors. In fact, if everyone decided to protest about working conditions, I’m sure we’d have no NHS – because if there’s one contingent of people who really are overstretched and underpaid, it’s doctors and their medical pals.
But they can’t strike because then everyone would die.
Tube drivers, at least, have a privilege in that no one is likely to bite the dust as a direct result of them not working.
Now they have this day off to twiddle their thumbs, might I suggest they think about more innovative strategies to promote their goals. The numerous amount of strikes suggests they haven’t been particularly successful in fighting for change. Could it be that their tactics are wrong?
They could at least fire their spokesman and get someone with more charisma to front their campaign. It’s unsurprising tube drivers have had to ‘walk’ to get some attention. For, reading Brennan’s Independent piece, he comes across as possibly one of the most unpersuasive and hopeless negotiators of all time. No wonder London Underground couldn’t be bothered to listen.
But fundamentally tube drivers could do more to not alienate the people of London. We are a generous public, eager to help with any noble cause. At the moment we don’t really know what the tube driver’s cause is in meaningful detail, and we’re reluctant to read into it because we’re too busy working out how to get home. I’m sure with better-promoted arguments, the tube drivers could have been far more successful in creating change. But at the moment, they’ve just pissed Londoners off – and when people are angry, they don’t feel like helping.