- Date published:
10:50 am, June 25th, 2022 - 30 comments
Categories: boris johnson, Economy, uk politics, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:
Over in the UK industrial action by the Rail Maritime and Transport Union is attracting attention. And the RMTU head, Mick Lynch, is proving to be a media sensation. His clear and direct means of communication is laying to waste all of the carefully scripted union attacks that the Tories can muster.
Check this video out if you want a flavour of what he has been saying.
And the video in this tweet shows the clarity of his message and of his analysis.
We live in the age of the jabby, confrontational interview & the RMTs, Mick Lynch, has had a few of them.
If you treat people with respect, you can still ask tough questions & get decent answers allowing your audience to make their own minds up@5_News pic.twitter.com/pr6aYycBc5
— Dan Walker (@mrdanwalker) June 22, 2022
The tories have taken to the prospect of Industrial Action like a pig in mud. Anything to distract attention from Johnson’s woes and the overwhelming impression of grift and sleaze that they are up to their necks in.
The dispute relates to the RMTU seeking wage increases to compensate for inflation which in the UK is currently running at 9.1%. Boris and Co think this is a bad idea because it will be inflationary. Essentially their view is that workers should bear the brunt of the damage caused by inflation so that others, rich people and company shareholders in particular, do not miss out.
The employers of RMTU workers have responded with an offer that will not only cause a significant cut in wages in real terms but they also propose to cut the number of jobs and current job conditions. And complained that wage increases cannot be afforded, even though senior executive salaries have been increasing and there was a recent shareholder payout. From Open Democracy:
Train companies paid out nearly £800m to shareholders last year before telling rail unions that employees must take a real-terms pay cut for them to stay afloat.
More than 50,000 train workers across 13 train companies began three days of industrial action on Tuesday. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said it was striking in response to plans by the companies to cut jobs and real-terms pay, and worsen employment conditions.
Rail chiefs have said that a cost-of-living pay rise, one of the RMT’s key demands, is “not sustainable in the current economic climate”.
The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail companies, said it had rejected a pay rise on the grounds that it would be ‘unfair to taxpayers’ given the emergency funding the government had provided to the industry during the pandemic.
Yet just last week, the UK’s largest train operator, FirstGroup, boasted to investors that profits for this year were “ahead of expectation” and pledged to resume dividend payouts. The company handed its shareholders £500m in December 2021, just months after being awarded government contracts for running the South Western Railway and Transpennine Express.
The company said the contracts have “no revenue risk and very limited cost risk” and that the new system “works better for passengers and taxpayers, while generating more resilient and consistent returns for shareholders” in a statement at the time.
I am sure you get the picture. Workers wages will be decreased to hold inflation but not chief executive salaries or shareholder payouts. The current economic model preserves privilege but demands that workers receive even less.
Lynch’s performance has attracted considerable attention with Jeremy Gilbert in the Guardian stating that Labour could learn a lot from him. From the article:
This week, the RMT union leader, Mick Lynch, has done something that no political figure has achieved since Brexit tore the nation apart in 2016. He has united progressive opinion, from the revolutionary left to the liberal centre, in praise of his deft and devastating media interviews – almost all of them in the face of hostile questioning.
In part this is simply because Lynch is a brilliant communicator and strategic thinker, as would be expected of the leader of a union whose cadres have long been noted for their acuity, intelligence and determination. But it is also because millions in Britain find it refreshing to hear a socialist perspective on current events articulated with clarity and conviction. Lynch puts the case for collective action with a precision and a lack of moralism that is both appealing and vanishingly rare. He also points out the harm done to workers and consumers by excess corporate profits: a blindingly obvious point that almost no mainstream commentator makes.
Gilbert also comments on how since the 1980s politics has increasingly been dominated by people who could loosely be described as careerists or professionals.
… since the 1980s we have seen the consolidation of a professional class of senior managers, politicians and media operatives, who tend to share a culture and an outlook, whichever political parties or institutions they may be attached to. Its members tend to be socially liberal, but also utterly committed to the assumption that socialism, and even traditional social democracy, are political philosophies that died with the 20th century. This social group draws members from among the privately educated and from the most successful products of state education, and it occupies the positions of power in many institutions today: from the BBC to the parliamentary Labour party.
What it doesn’t tend to include is many committed trade unionists, many people whose vowel-sounds haven’t been honed at elite universities, or many who are willing to put corporate profits into question when giving interviews about the nature of price inflation. While at one time it was the Labour party itself that was supposed to be the vehicle for bringing such people into public life,for much of the Blair period and beyond it has prevented these people from reaching positions of power, with the exception of the period of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
And if you want to read something really disturbing this Declassified UK interview by Matt Kennard with Jeremy Corbyn makes for somber reading. The essential message is that Corbyn never had a chance and was undermined by the establishment. The interview covers incidents such as the UK military sending Corbyn a warning, deliberate undermining by MI5 and MI6, an open threat from Mike Pompeo, the Guardian publishing 1,215 stories mentioning Labour and anti-semitism from 2016 to 2019 (yes I realise that I refer to the Guardian regularly but I cannot understand why it made such a song and dance of the anti semitism scandal) and Corbyn’s ultimate suspension from the Parliamentary Labour Party.
Lynch’s performance has drawn unflattering comparisons with that of Keir Starmer who still is unable to express support for the workers. In fact it is that bad that Starmer ordered MPs not to go onto the picket line and has threatened them with disciplinary action. From the Guardian:
Labour frontbenchers who defied Keir Starmer to appear on picket lines have been encouraged to issue public apologies or risk disciplinary action, despite some shadow cabinet members urging the Labour leader to drop the issue.
Several frontbenchers were pictured alongside striking RMT workers on Tuesday, despite explicit instructions from Starmer to stay away.
The Guardian understands some of the rebel MPs involved have been asked to issue a statement explaining their attendance.
One senior party source jokingly suggested a junior frontbencher had been asked to claim they had been “ambushed by a picket line” – a reference to an excuse used to explain Boris Johnson’s attendance at his own birthday party.
Another source, an MP, said the whips were “threatening people at the moment, trying to get them to issue apologies”. It is unclear what the consequences would be if they refused to apologise.
Meanwhile, Starmer is under pressure from some members of his shadow cabinet to drop the threat of disciplinary action.
One shadow minister said it would be “outrageous” to caution, or even sack, Labour MPs for showing solidarity with striking railworkers.
This endless focus group and polling to find the optimal triangulation point on issues makes a mockery of such traditional working class concepts as solidarity.
And when compared to Mick Lynch’s direct and principled stance on issues the Starmer’s principle free style is clear.
Finally Green Day’s version of John Lennon’s Working Class Hero ballad.
Thanks MS i'll be raising my glass to Mick Lynch later
The man of the hour for sure.
I love it that the Brits still use the term "working class" with pride. Our delusions of an egalitarian society don't seem to have shifted that much, like working in a call center is somehow "middle class" because you wear office dress, and working in fast food or childcare or courier driver is just a temporary aberration before you move on to better things. We don't even seem able to acknowledge poverty like grown ups ..its all "Child Poverty"…
I hope some of his fighting spirit rubs off ..I presume next time round they won't make the same mistake of giving him so much airtime.
Wow, exception communication skills the guy would make a good leader of wider political movement.
They way he set everything out so clearly, you would think the Labour party would be be in full throated support its essentially Labour v Capital after all. I guess you can see who's side the current Starmer led party sits.
Of course Keir Starmer has to walk a different line and to not acknowledge that is politically naive in the extreme.
Mick Lynch's role is to advocate for pay and conditions for RMT workers. He does that very well. Starmer must win a GE against the most corrupt government the UK has ever seen and needs to tread far more carefully.
Starmer is a part of the corrupt establishment that turned on Corbyn with a vicious smear campaign, because he awoke class consciousness, and the elites can’t be having that.
It is hard for someone like that to get heard, but it is great television. Interviews like that will increase viewership, and he should be on every channel. It is why Boris works (as a brand), because he is outrageous and entertaining.
Great post Micky Don will be chuffed. Mick Lynch is a star – great to see how he uses straight speaking to blow away the media's tired old memes.
He has great lines and positive working class energy, and soon has the presenters on the ropes.
The only stagger from vids that I have seen was when he was repeatedly asked “are you a marxist or not”…he only needed to say “are you a tory?”.
I imagine The Sun and the rest will be digging furiously to find out if Mick ever had an untied shoelace. But working class people will surely gain confidence from this.
Some of us well remember asking that the 8 hour working day hour 40 hour working week that was n the front page of the Labour Party website be removed as the Labour Party no longer believed in it.
It was removed shortly after.
We remember the year of manifesto bullshit back around 2012/2013 as well.
Labour doesn't care about either those on benefit or the working class. They squandered their public support and opportunity to increase benefit rates after WEAG and only do what they think is marginally acceptable to the right who control the narrative.
Cheers Mike. Mick reminds me of more than a few trade unionists I have known including my dad.
I think your dad would have headbutted her flat.
That was still the most awesome Catholic+Union funeral I’ve ever been to.
Well thats a strange comment…….
A real breath of fresh air thankyou so much Don.
It would be nice to see a bit more Of Mick Lynch's Left in NZ – God knows our workers have got decades of catching up to do.
Decades of the Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble et al "legacy". Unions and Workers….hell, NZ SOCIETY, "reformed" and destroyed ..for the benefit of a few, who became unbelievably wealthy. Labours shame.
Douglas Prebble Bassett..They were not Labour. Any of them !!! Then the "Contract Act" polished the turd further. Individualism and Competition over Teamwork and Co-operation.
Hi Patricia. Sorry late reply. Agree totally. They, and there were many more, were of course, (as we found) the worms that became the ACT flies. And David Lange ….unfocused, for "reasons" lost the plot…and our Future.
So refreshing to hear someone talk in plain language. I did not feel one tot of sympathy for the interviewer – especially when she tried to project her blustering and flustering on to Mike Lynch.
Sorry. Mixed up my videos.
So refreshing to hear someone talk in plain language.
Not sure what's going on here. Tried to edit but it reproduced comment instead.
Great article MS. The point raised by Mick Lynch on record profits and payouts to shareholders is a world wide phenomenon. When blaming workers it was the "wage/price spiral". Now its the profit/price spiral. No wonder workers are getting angry.
Thanks also for the great Matt Kennard interview from Declassified UK with Corbyn. I'd forgotten about Starmer being director of CPS during the Assange extradition to Sweden fiasco and the destruction of emails relating to this.
Also really heartening to hear Corbyns abhorrence to the obscene profits made by the UK arms industry in support of Saudis destruction of Yemen. The recounting of his inability to get loyalty from his own MPs in the vote to ban these arms sales shows just how much money has corrupted the Labour Party.
I wish both Corbyn and Lynch well in their efforts in the good fight. There are a lot of people in the UK that could use their help
Jeremy Corbyn, apart from the attacks by The Guardian !… was certainly white-anted from within the Labour party. Even here on The Standard…"flake" and worse.
I sure hope the Brits can throw the actual Tories out. Be a hard task…voter apathy and all the rest of the beat downs……
Anyway …I wish them all the Best too !
Yep. I got bollocked a few times here for supporting Jeremy.
He was never intended to get the leadership, and in the end was perhaps a little effete, but that could have been based on his understanding of how precarious his position was. He could have done with a more Mick Lynch approach himself!
I maintain that had JC simply advocated “we will respect the vote on Brexit AND renationalise and protect public assets” he may well have been PM despite the huff and puff of the British establishment.
Yep have definitely seen the anti Corbyn on here. And I did feel for Mr Corbyn over there. He must have felt between the rock and hard place. In his own party ! And the whole anti Semite slur…manufactured, and run repeatedly.
Anyway. I do read your comments too. Good on you.
I just realised I called him Mick Kelly a few times. Now corrected.
NZCTU–look and learn…please! Historically around the world successful central labour organisations should be class left leaders not just another Wellington lobby group “welcoming” every move of the Labour Caucus.
The Conservatives are trying to paint Mick Lynch as some kind of latter-day Arthur Scargill, someone who can be made a scapegoat for anything that goes wrong.
Mickey Savage finally great work. Such is the repression and propaganda of the corporate media I would doubt very few kiwis would even know this man exists.
The NZLP is an exact replica of its british cousin and so many other corporate Social Democrats the world over who have not articulated or supported working people since the putsch undertaken by the neo liberals to infiltrate and dilute the once powerful Labour parties formed to fight what is being done right now.
Andrew Little sort of fought for his union members but now he is in cabinet he won't support the many health care workers like me who need more than 3 % being offered and no more to survive. The union is actually not asking for much more than that and just enough to assist many to survive.
He is a typical example of the current government who pretend to espouse Labour solutions as long as it adheres to the corporate neo liberal approach and that this should be enough.
I hope a new movement is formed to fight what has become an enslavement of the working man and woman in today’s extreme capitalist corporate machine where someone like Corbyn can be threatened by the state for being a real Labour leader. They really are terrified of anything that does not mean making money or that people should have a political party that represents them.
Its time the one party state was ended.
Damned with faint praise
“Andrew Little sort of fought for his union members…..”