The British love a sporting underdog. We revel in a “giant killing” in the F.A. Cup, unless it’s our team being slayed of course! We watched in our millions late into the night when Dennis Taylor, the plucky Irish funster, beat Steve Davis the boring, safe, winning machine in the last frame on the final black. More recently we cheered on Garbiñe Muguruza as she went toe-to-toe with Serena Williams in this years Wimbledon Ladies Final as she threatened to make an impossible come back from 5-1 down in the last set.
There’s an overwhelming feeling of the British sense of fair play when it comes to sport and we like to make heroes out of the unlikeliest people. Step forward Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards and any junior football team paraded annually in the local press for going a full season without winning a game and getting thrashed every week 62-0 but never giving up, tuning out every week and with the goalkeeper suffering repetitive strain injury from retrieving the ball from the back of the net so often week in, week out.
Strange then that this sense of fair play and supporting the underdog doesn’t seem to apply in other aspects of our country. London Underground workers staged a strike last week over Boris Johnson’s plans to introduce night trains. Whilst this may seem a good idea it’s somewhat of a vanity project for Boris and something he basically announced on the fly, without discussing with anyone about how it might work and probably more problematically how much it might cost.
Transport for London’s proposals to drivers terms and conditions for pulling off Boris’s night trains see drivers faced with rotas where the amounts of night shifts they face are totally set apart from any realistic work-life balance one might expect. Imagine if you suddenly faced the prospect of having to change your hours of work from the daytime to the middle of the night. Particularly, if you fancy spending time with your family when you’re not working. I’m guessing you wouldn’t be too impressed?
Surprising then the amount of vitriol against the tube workers from many in what seems to be a tale of the underdog, in this case the ordinary working tube driver, against the establishment figure and Bullingdon bully boy Boris Johnson. Ah! But look at how much they get paid and ooooh! Look at their holidays, those greedy tube drivers! Why do tube drivers get paid more than nurses? Greedy, overpaid, underworked tube drivers!!!
Strange how when we look at ordinary working people and what they are worth compared to other ordinary working people we seem to reason that X gets paid more than Y so X is totally underserving and should be only getting paid the same amount as Y. It’s the race to the bottom and the politics of envy.
The ordinary working people of Britain should be looking at the tube drivers and underground staff and lending them their full support against Boris and his tax avoiding top earning, Tory donating friends. We should applaud them too in that their perceived high wages and generous terms and conditions shouldn’t be a stick to beat them with but a model for us all to follow and fight for. The RMT Union is a strong one, perhaps the last of its kind. It shows just why all ordinary working people should join a union as a matter of course. Together, through a union, ordinary workers can be heard and have a strong powerful voice against poor working practices and the attempts by employers to treat their staff unfairly. Instead of envying tube staff, we should be using them as the model to springboard fairer wages and terms and conditions for all.
David Cameron wants to opt out of the European rules on employment rights. Those rights entitle you to fair hours, annual leave, sickness and maternity benefits, redress against unfair dismissal and so on. At a time when unions have been vilified by a right-wing media and membership is on the wane we now find ourselves in need of them more than ever as workers rights that we have all become accustomed to are under threat. London Underground workers should inspire us not anger us. Whilst austerity continues to bite, whilst the vulnerable are attacked, whilst the rich get richer and contribute the least to society as a whole and whilst the political classes merge into a faceless force for the few and not the many; let’s support Underground staff in their battle with Boris.
It’s actually a battle we all need them to win before they come after us next.