Good news for the long-suffering 300,000 people who rely on Southern trains to go about their daily lives: Aslef, one of the unions which has caused huge disruption over the last 18 months, has called off future industrial action. The bad news is that to secure the deal, those same passengers will now be paying for a 28 per cent pay rise for the striking drivers.
This, you’ll recall, was supposedly a strike about “safety” – so it’s odd that settling it involves handing over a large amount of cash. In fact, isn’t it strange how often that seems to happen on the railways? Drivers are bravely striking to protect all of us one minute, and the next they’re climbing back into the cab on the basis that their pay packet just grew spontaneously. No doubt Aslef will soon start protesting again about fare increases, despite having just contributed to them.
To be fair to Aslef, it’s reported that the settlement also includes a partial agreement on some of the supposed safety issues they were meant to be concerned about – but if that was their true objection, why did they require a financial settlement on top?
It’s fascinating to see the response to such events from some parts of the Left. Apparently it’s illegitimate to criticise a union which disrupts hundreds of thousands of people’s lives in order to squeeze more money of them, because they are “the workers”. Are the 300,000 commuters who have been struggling to get into work, and who now will have to pay even more to do so, not workers, too? Or is “workers” a term reserved for those striking for a pay rise regardless of the impact on others, even when they’re already on £49,000 a year base pay for a four-day working week?
It will be interesting to hear what, if anything, Labour has to say on this issue – not least given that Aslef helps to fund the office of the Shadow Transport Secretary. Surely, with just over 1,000 of the top ten per cent of earners in the UK holding 300,000 other workers to ransom for more money, Corbyn will speak out to defend “the many, not the few”?