Saturday, December 31, 2005

London Transit Workers Strike On New Year's Eve

Taking a page from TWU Local 100, the London transit union has called for an immediate strike for New Year's Eve. From Reuters:

LONDON - Hundreds of thousands of London New Year’s Eve revelers faced transport chaos on Saturday as underground rail station staff staged a 24-hour strike on one of the busiest nights of the year.

The RMT union said the industrial action would take full effect around mid-evening as staff failed to turn up for their shifts following the strike’s midday start.

The walkout threatened to undermine a planned free underground service which had been due to run from 11:45 p.m.

Transport officials said they hoped to be able to provide some service on all underground lines but advised passengers to plan alternative routes home.

Some 3 million people use London’s underground, also known as the Tube, every day, though the numbers go down during the weekend.

The Tube is the oldest underground rail network in the world with 275 stations.

The RMT union is striking over the introduction of new work rosters which they say will reduce safety levels on the underground.

“The rosters that London Underground intend to impose would reduce the number of station staff on duty at any one time, in many cases by more than half,” RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said in a statement. “We believe that that would leave stations with insufficient cover, especially in emergencies.”

Operator London Underground denied the routes were unsafe and said there would be no reduction in station staffing.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone and London Underground condemned the strike, saying it may ruin the night for revelers in London where celebrations include a fireworks display at the London Eye wheel on the south bank of the River Thames.

The strike will also affect a New Year’s Day parade which starts at Parliament Square at midday on Sunday and features 10,000 performers from around the world.

Parade publicist Dan Kirkby told BBC radio the strike threatened to ruin two years’ of preparations. “London deserves better than this,” he said. “We are urging people to take a little time and effort, come on overground trains and drive and walk.”

A second underground strike has been set for Jan. 8.

Gee, it' a shame the transit strike's going to ruin the New Year's Day parade in Parliament Square and force New Year's Eve revelers to miss the fireworks display over the Thames.

I guess the drunks will just have to stay home and set fire to trash cans at the stroke of midnight in order to celebrate the New Year, eh?

It is nice to see unions learning a lesson from TWU Local 100, though.

If a transport workers union is going to strike, it should do so when it will cause maximum effect, like the week before Christmas or on New Year's Eve.

If a teacher's union is going to strike, the week the standardized tests are slated to be given seems to be the perfect opportunity to let the politicians and the public know just how essential teachers are to the running of the system.

TWU 100 and the RMT union in London know the lesson about the timing a strike.

Unfortunately the current leadership of the United Federation of Teachers does not.

In the first place, they don't believe in striking because it's against the Taylor Law (a law passed in 1967 by cynical politicians looking to undercut the power of NY public employee unions), but even if they did believe in striking , they wouldn't call it during Regents week when a teacher's strike could cause the maximum effect.

No siree, UFT Preznit Randi Weingarten would call a strike in the summer, right after summer school ended and a few weeks before the regular school year starts.

Cuz' she wouldn't want the strike to be an inconvenience to her buddy, Mayor Moneybags, or her kissing cousin, Chancellor Klein, you know?

Plus she wouldn't want to disrupt the school year by anything as unseemly as a strike.

This is why UFT members got screwed in their last contract while TWU members were able to strike, get a pretty good contract, and $8,000-$14,000 pension refund checks to boot.

Although, to be fair, Randi Weingarten did win UFT members a toilet paper concession from Mayor Bloomberg, as she notes on this new United Federation of Teachers blog called EdzUp.

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