It’s not a story I’ve been following closely. But starting from the info available here, I’ll make some wild conjectures.
The straightforward answer is that ‘irregularities’ were uncovered in the ballot, which make the strike illegal.
Maybe a brief summary, for those who don’t read the news and don’t like clicking links.
A big crow runs a union for sailors and train drivers. A union is an organisation of workers to protect their rights from being exploited by their bosses. When the union gets upset enough about something it asks the sailors and train drivers (I’m deliberately being twee, by the way) if they want to strike. Striking involves not sailing or driving trains for a day or longer. The strikers lose pay, but the service stops running. Meaning the bosses have to deal with a lot of angry people, and, theoretically, are reminded that they can’t do anything without the support of their workers.
The big crow and his gang aren’t happy about a plan to axe a lot of jobs. They say it will reduce safety. The bosses call it ‘modernising’.
It becomes very difficult to pick these things apart, as bias is natural in these situations. Being quite the lefty, I tend to support Unions despite them often being presented as being combatative for the sake of being combative. I don’t think this is useful, and I’ve seen it in action. But at the end of the day, lines have to be drawn somewhere.
The principle of collective action is a positive one. Particularly as companies that provide public services are increasingly privatised and therefore responsible more to the bottom line (money, money, money) than to providing good service. I firmly believe that these goals (providing good service to the people that need it and making money for the shareholders/saving money for the taxpayers) are mutually exclusive.
So there is constant conflict. And the way it is presented becomes hugely important.
A rail strike is a particularly tricky thing, as it upsets the public so. The important thing for the management is to present this as well as possible as the workers causing trouble, rather than them being profit focussed. If the public blame the workers instead of the bosses, then the strike is failing.
Increasingly I get the sense that people are no longer on the side of unions in these matters. The constant drive for ease, efficiency and ‘what I want, right now, in front of me’ in our increasingly individualistic and selfish society sees industrial action as an inconvenience rather than a necessary defence of people’s rights.
And I was reminded last night, a generation or so earlier, strikers bought the country to a stand still. People couldn’t eat and feed their families.
It’s an emotive topic.
Ostensibly the strike is cancelled due to a legality. I suspect it is a way of undermining the strikers.
Don’t let it succeed without warrant.
Look into the details, and make up your own mind.
Illustration by Lucy.