Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Is the Rail Strike Justified?

RMT members across Scotland are holding 2 24 hour strikes this week, which effectively mucks up the entire week's services for the loss of only a third of the week's pay.

I'm normally a fairly fierce critic of unions because I think that in general they do a fairly rubbish job of representing their members, particularly when these members are low paid women - during the nursery nurses' strike of 2004, I felt that the union had let their members down by engaging in a protracted dispute that was always on a hiding to nothing. And don't get me started on home care workers.......

Network Rail and the RMT don't even seem to be able to agree what the dispute is about - NR think it's voluntary safety assessments and the RMT think it's about Network Rail being able to play havoc with people's lives. If you read here, you will see that the union is saying that the new working practices give Network Rail the opportunity to drag people who had been told they had particular days off into work at the drop of a hat.

The idea that an employer should have the right to do that is clearly ridiculous. If you are told that you have, say Wednesday and Thursday off, you arrange your life around that. You may have children to look after, much sought after doctor's or dentist's appointments to keep - or even golf to play or a dog to walk. It's not the employers' or anybody else's concern. Whatever, if you have been told that you will have a day off, then that should be the case. I don't believe employers should ever interfere with annual leave, either - although I understand it happens.

If that is in fact the case, the union has a very strong argument in its favour.

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