A terrifying glimpse of Corbynomics: rail strike is a chilling reminder of how UK could look under Jeremy Corbyn, writes LEO MCKINSTRY
Commuters stranded on strike-hit railway stations this morning will be furious. As victims of yet another stoppage by train drivers – this time a time a cynical 27-day walk-out at South Western Railway – they will vent their anger not just at the overweening greed and obduracy of the RMT union but also at the train companies and the Government for their failure to keep the country moving.
No one should underestimate the misery and frustration this stoppage – the longest train strike in British history – will cause, nor the threats to the well-being and livelihoods of individuals affected.
Hundreds of thousands of passengers face a restricted timetable between Waterloo and the Home Counties that will last right up until Christmas and beyond.
To make matters worse, last week it was announced that train fares would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent, adding £100 to the annual travel bill of long-distance commuters. As the commuter campaign group SWR Fightback said: ‘It illustrates the disdain passengers are held in. For the announcement to come as we are bracing for a month of rail misery adds insult to injury.’
The rail strike is a glimpse of what the UK could look like under a Jeremy Corbyn-led government (Corbyn is pictured above in Whitby on Sunday)
To make matters worse, last week it was announced that train fares would go up by an average of 2.7 per cent (stock image of someone buying tickets)
The reputation of our railways is in tatters, and angry commuters understandably lay some of the blame on the Government, which quickly needs to sort out the problem in conjunction with the train companies. But the real villain of the piece is the RMT which is behaving – as always – with grotesque disregard for passengers. It is also guilty of bare-faced hypocrisy.
The walkout is over the union’s concerns with the introduction a fleet of 90 trains in which train guards will lose responsibility for operating the doors, leaving them more time to deal with passengers.
The RMT, representing the guards, claims this new arrangement poses a safety risk. Yet it has already agreed to an almost identical change on the Greater Anglia network next year, and to similar conditions on Crossrail, the new line through London, when it finally opens in 2021.
But the union’s insidious behaviour is not an isolated incident. The truth is that, as the spectre of a hard-Left Labour government looms over Britain, trade unions are beginning to flex their muscles. Jeremy Corbyn’s relish for class war and confrontation is matched by a growing mood of militancy in some of our vital public services. Last week, thousands of lecturers from the University and College Union began an eight-day strike in a row about pensions and pay. Around 60 institutions are estimated to have been affected by the action.
And despite a High Court injunction barring a planned postal strike during the General Election, the Communication Workers Union is still planning to paralyse the Royal Mail in a long-running dispute over job security and employment conditions.
In recent days, there have also been walkouts by libraries and museums staff in West Yorkshire, cleaning staff at the Foreign Office, health visitors in Lincolnshire and NHS support staff in Surrey. And the airline pilots’ union is warning of yet more industrial turmoil at British Airways during the festive period.
The strikes will cause travel disruption for commuters, Christmas shoppers and people visiting families in Dorset and Somerset over the festive break. A busy station is pictured above with South Western Railway trains on the platform
This discontent will dramatically worsen if Corbyn is able to sneak into office. The Labour Party was established at the beginning of the 20th century to represent the trade unions in Parliament. Since then, the relationship between the two wings of the movement has always been close, as reflected in Labour’s reliance on trade union funding.
But under Corbyn, Labour has plumbed new depths of subservience through its ideological embrace of irresponsible militancy. The present Labour front bench has never encountered a strike it did not like, never seen a pay claim it did not support.
Devoid of any experience in business, the personnel of Corbyn’s team is marinated in the union movement. Corbyn himself was a far-Left organiser for the National Union of Public Employees before he entered Parliament in 1983, and the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell worked for both the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the TUC.
A Corbyn Government would make it much easier for its union allies to mount strikes because it plans to remove many of the constraints that have been imposed on them by successive governments since 1980, such as limits on picketing and requirements to reach a certain turnout in ballots for industrial action.
Labour’s manifesto openly boasts that, in office, the party will ‘remove unnecessary restrictions on industrial action’ and ‘repeal anti-trade union legislation’, ahead of a drive ‘to create new rights and freedoms for trade unions’. The scope for mayhem will be made even worse by Labour’s vast programme of nationalisation, which will undermine management, strengthen the unions, and obliterate competition.
After decades of relative harmony in the workplace, a Corbyn triumph would mean a return to the dark days of the 1970s, when the bullying trade unions held the public to ransom and inflicted colossal damage on the economy. The RMT’s action today could be just the start.
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