This non-blog is brought to you courtesy of Aslef and SouthWest Trains. There are, as promised, almost no SWT services running today and while I could get into work if I tried hard enough, I decided against. I was going to take a day off tomorrow anyway and the thought of attempting to insert myself onto a District line tube carrying both its own passengers and probably half the refugees from my usual train just didn’t appeal somehow.
Not being a train driver or a train manager, I don’t know the ins and outs of this dispute beyond the two statements that have been put out by both sides, so, uncharacteristically, I’m going to refrain from commenting. But I will say this. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the dispute itself, if two sets of adults can’t sort out something like, this without ending up dragging not one but 350,000 innocent third parties into the conflict then something has gone badly awry with the pair of them. Both sides claim to be acting in the best interests of the passengers – now that I can comment on. And my comment begins with B and ends with ollocks.
What really bugs me about these strikes is the timing of them. You can see the thinking in the smoke filled rooms of Aslef HQ as the union leaders planned the action over their beer and sandwiches: ‘We’ll make it the day after the bank holiday. That way everyone will get an extra long weekend and we’ll be carried shoulder high on a parade of grateful commuters released from the toils of their jobs for an extra day of frolicking in the sunshine.’ What they may not have factored into their calculations is that some of us actually need to go to work and that if we take a day off that’s coming out of our holiday entitlement or pay, not theirs. I’m also perfectly capable of organising a long weekend all by myself, thank you very much, when it suits me. And while a day not driving trains doesn’t leave you with a backlog of undriven trains to deal with the morning after, a day not doing whatever it is I do (answering emails?) leaves me with a substantial backlog of not-done things to catch up with when I finally do get in.
If the unions really cared about us, the commuters, as they claim to do, then they would strike on a Sunday, or the bank holiday. But they don’t because that wouldn’t have the effect that a strike on a working day would have. So we’re left with their crocodile tears and their pretended concern and an inconvenient day off or a struggle into work. And because both sides know fine well we’ve no alternative in the long run, we’ll continue to be the ones that suffer until they sort themselves out. Grrr