Sunday, November 08, 2009

ASLEF is an Anagram for "Total and Complete Bastard"

It's obviously not a strike, drivers just haven't turned up for work - in a coordinated action - today. That makes me feel warm and fuzzy to be living on the Hitchin-Cambridge spur of the Great Northern line, so I'm completely unable to travel today - the nearest replacement bus services are about 10 miles away, if I wanted to take a bus to Cambridge and then the Liverpool Street train.

That makes me glad I bought a season ticket.

I don't know if First Capital Connect will call a Void Day, presumably they will as they have no way of running a service today, which means I might get a couple of quid compensation. Woo.

It wouldn't be so bad if the "grievance" wasn't utterly contrived: drivers are objecting to being paid overtime to come in on a Sunday as it's only "voluntary" work. So they've all decided en-masse not to volunteer so, even though there are enough who would want double-time or whatever the pay is on any given Sunday, there is no service to protest this lack of compulsion. We know full well that the union would reject any calls to make Sunday working mandatory, and that would make the system less flexible and worker-friendly than it is currently.

So, what this actually is, is a strike about the lack of grounds for calling a strike.

Thanks, ASLEF. Strikes are only viable if the employer is a non-monopoly: it will lose customers to its competitors, so has an incentive to end the strike. With a monopoly, or a state-run pseudocompany, all it does is victimise customers. This union, like so many others, is playing a zero-sum game against the general public.

This is, it has to be said, a failure of privatisation: awarding of monopoly franchises does not create a market. The airline model is much better - arrival/departure slots bought from the stations, central (state-run) traffic control, and multiple service providers on the same route. This is so tantalisingly close on the King's Cross lines - GNER/NXEC, WAGN/FCC, Hull Trains and now Grand Central all run on the same tracks, and there are multiple providers as far north as Stevenage and Hitchin. Why isn't it a viable model more generally? Why isn't there a choice between easyTrain where I'd be standing for the entire journey, but it'd be cheap, or a First Class-only OpCo with complementary champagne?

- KoW

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