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No really, I hope Bob Crowe gets what he wants

June 11, 2009

I seriously doubt RMT Union leader with an undeniably suitable face for radio Bob Crowe (left) will care two hoots for the kind of day I’ve had. In comparison to many other Londoners I’m sure my day will seem spectacularly normal. And yet I find myself foaming at the mouth with rage having experienced the some of the impact he and his dubious call for strike action has caused on London’s commuters. 

It goes like this. 48 hours ago a colleague leaned over my desk and asked one simple question. “What are you going to do about the tube strike?” she asked with a big grin on her face. 

I pointed out that as far as I was aware, sorting out the tube strike didn’t form part of the responsibilities detailed on my job description but that if she was asking me whether I would make use of alternative forms of public transport in order to go from South East London to White City then the answer was very nearly 99% no. 

I did hesitate before committing myself fully. The alternative to not going into work was to work from home using my work laptop and connecting up to the network. I hesitated not because I don’t like being at home but simply because when I am I nearly always feel incredibly and inexplicably guilty for being there. I always assume others will assume I’m sat with my feet up watching TV. Thus I usually end up working harder than I ever do at work. I did exactly the same yesterday when I did end up working from home. By the time I’d finished work at 8pm I was absolutely exhausted. 

I knew I couldn’t do the same today. I had a meeting at 11am (cancelled first thing by a colleague who had declined the meeting on account of public transport) and a conference call at 1pm. I had to pick up some equipment from the office so it seemed sensible (even if it was a little 0dd) to go across to west London to attend the conference call. I had to go on a train to London Bridge, change for London Waterloo East, walk to Waterloo, train from there to Clapham Junction and then wait another 20 minutes to get on a train for Shepherds Bush. The entire journey took me nearly an hour longer than it normally would and this wasn’t at peak time either. Conference call over I then get in a taxi with a camera, a tripod, a suitcase and a stills camera and head towards Liverpool Street train station in time to catch the 4pm. 

The Polish taxi driver laughed hysterically when I said when my train was departing. “You’re giving me an hour to go from White City to Liverpool Street,” he laughed, “in this traffic?” He declined my offer to drive the car myself, turned around to face the windscreen and got on with the job in hand. 

As it turned out the taxi driver did do rather well getting me to Liverpool Street station five minutes before my train was due to depart. Sadly, I was unable to find the ticket machine where my tickets were dispensed and was then forced to buy the excess of £33 to get on a train half an hour later. 

I cursed Bob Crowe’s name when I reluctantly handed over my credit card to pay the extra money. The lady behind the counter smiled adding, “I was a member of the RMT Union but I let my membership lapse. They let me down. And, if I was still a member I wouldn’t have agreed to strike. They don’t pay you when you go on strike you know.” 

It was an interesting piece of information I hadn’t considered. If it was indeed the case, it seemed that strike days aren’t days off from work, the jollies, the faux-“working from home” statements I had previously assumed them to be. They are, presumably, times when those who feel aggrieved have their chance to state their case. The fact they’re unpaid for it surely makes their call all the more resonant. Doesn’t it?

Well no, actually. No it really doesn’t. Far from it in fact. And no, I don’t have statistics or trends, or quotes or speeches to link to to back up that argument. I have one simple anecdote which has changed my mind entirely about the entire union, their actions over the past couple of days and the leader who kicked off the entire thing in the first place. 

On my walk into work from Shepherds Bush train station, one reasonably sized but certainly well-packed suitcase trundling at speed behind me I end up walking past one entirely closed tube and another (White City) partially closed. Outside the latter station are two burly looking men decked out in their fluorescent orange high-visibility jackets, “RMT Union” printed on their backs. Both of them catch sight of me walking along the pavement, hot, sweating and demonstrating signs of being late and a little bit stressed. 

The burlier of the two men smiles momentarily, raises his empty drink can in my direction as though he was toasting my good health and shouts, “Give us a smile mate. It’s a lovely day you know. Things can’t be all that bad.”

I should have held back. I should have bit my tongue. But I couldn’t.

“You wouldn’t need to tell me to smile if you lot hadn’t agreed to strike for 48 hours.”

It won’t have made an impact. Those kind of people are so incredibly thick skinned it would take years using the very latest in drilling equipment to find anything approaching anything like a heart. 

Of course, I could be entirely wrong about that RMT Union member outside White City tube today. I could be entirely wrong about Bob Crowe (although somehow I doubt it). But if I’m not and we were to unfairly assume that everyone who chose to strike considered it somehow OK to display the same level of arrogance masked as some kind of lack of self-awareness, then frankly I say don’t let them have a penny more. 

Mind you. That’s just my opinion. And I’m only basing it on anecdotal evidence.

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