The tube strike taking place in London has definitely been a big topic of conversation this week, especially today. Many of our simple journeys to work today will be like journeys from hell, the buses will be jam-packed and have us feeling like we are in a tin of sardines. I am not surprised that people will be unhappy with the tube drivers for all the inconvenience they will face.
Some people are really angry with the tube drivers for going on strike today, particularly as they only held a strike less than a month ago on Thursday 9th July.
Many have complained "the tube drivers get like £50,000 a year, way more than us, so why are they complaining?" Well let me tell you three things. Firstly, I will tell you for free they are not getting greedy at all and they are not going on strike solely because of money.
Alex Flynn, the spokesperson for Unite, has made it crystal clear they are striking over the "impact which the change will have on peoples' working lives." He continued that the proposed changes to the Tube system (the Night Tube) were done with "minimal consultation".
Secondly, people may be concerned that they are 'overpaid' because they are earning footballer wages and investing banking money! But unlike many people in work who are slaving away and complaining to family and friends instead of their employer about their pay: tube strikers, as a collective, have fought long and hard and over decades, for the pay they earn today.
Lastly, let us be clear it's not only tube drivers that voted for industrial action, it's every grade of staff that works on the Underground network. Just because many of us choose to roll over and accept any changes our employers impose on us does not mean we should be angry with those who do not.
Tube drivers and Underground network staff are just protecting their work-life balance and making sure that changes in their contracts are negotiated, not imposed. What does it say about society that we are upset because we are not getting what tube drivers are getting? I actually agree with James O'Brien from LBC (which, is not the norm) that all I hear about why the tube drivers should not strike is based on "envy".
I do not know about you but I would like to have a work-life balance. I would love to earn a decent living as well as spend time important time with family and doing the things that make me happy. All those striking really want is a firm long-term commitment on the amount of weekend and unsocial shifts expected to be worked which is leaving them unable to plan their quality time. Let us be straight, working at night is very difficult and bad for our health. Research published by TUC earlier this weeks suggests there is a link between night-time working and the increased likelihood of suffering such conditions as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and depression.
The work-life balance in the UK is one of the worst in Europe. Workers in the UK currently work some of the longest hours in Europe, take the shortest lunch breaks and enjoy the fewest public holidays. One of the fundamental reasons unions exist is to protect this balance and employees from unfair terms and conditions. Also to ensure that the benefits of their labour do not simply go to the few, but are shared in the form of decent pay, benefits, and so on.
The government in France undoubtedly understand this notion of work-life balance and as a result employers are not legally allowed to contact them during the 133 hours of the week that are designated for rest.
The truth is (if we look deep into our souls) many of us wish we could do the same as tube drivers and strike against our employers for a fairer deal. But we don't have the courage or will to do so. I will end with a quote from a tube driver I saw in an article yesterday for us to meditate on.
"Instead of trying to use our salaries against us, why don't these people fight for their own pay, and work to improve their working conditions?"