The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT), one of the UK’s largest union groups, have announced fresh strikes set early next month after they rejected a salary offer from Network Rail, Britain’s largest rail owner and operator.
For 24-hours on the evening of June 4, and again for 48-hours on June 9, railways across Great Britain will come to a standstill for what has become a near-annual event in the UK.
Of discussions, RMT general secretary Mick Cash had this to say:
Our rail staff deserve a fair reward for the high-pressure, safety-critical work that they undertake day and night and the last thing that we need is a demoralized, burnt-out workforce living in fear for their livelihoods and their futures and the message has come back loud and clear that that is exactly how they feel about the current offer from Network Rail.
Trade Unions like RMT have threatened to hold strikes on many occasions demanding better pay and pension options for the staff who run the railways. And based on the sheer number of strikes many would assume pay is criminally low.
Well, it’s not.
Numbers can be attractive
In fact salary options at Network Rail are quite attractive.
With nearly 35,000 employees, almost 23,000 are in the £20k – £40k bracket ($30,583 – $61,167). A further 10,000 of the state-owned company’s employees earn above that, whereas many of the 1,500 who earn less are apprentices, where pay can reach £14k ($21,416).
Graduate opportunities include starting salaries of £26,500 ($40,531), including a £2,000 welcome bonus and discounts worth up to 75% off railway tickets.
Unions are a great industry asset…in theory
Unions were brought in to support workers from poor conditions and to protect their pay interests. A sound industry when it works. But the problem is it rarely does. More than anything, unions have amassed a level of power with very few checks and balances.
If a corporation was to cripple a country by halting workers from performing a national service, such as keeping the trains on the tracks, governments would get involved and they would be met with unprecedented outrage from the public.
Unions, under the cover of “helping those in need” do little more than line their own pockets.
By increasing the pay checks of those they represent, dues are increased. Meaning not as much money for Joe Plumber, a lot more for Bobby Union.
In 2014, RMT’s then-general secretary Bob Crow passed away before Mr. Cash was voted in to replace the empty seat. During his term Crow was vocal in his beliefs in protecting labor workers in the transport industry. However he came under scrutiny for his lifestyle choices. On top of his over-the-average £145,000 salary ($220,000), much higher than those he represents, he also lived in public housing believing it should be for everyone.
Good ideas are ruined by people
RMT’s demands are not objectionable. Network Rail profits exceed £1billion ($1.52billion). Should their employees earn more? Possibly. But why should everyone else suffer?
Politicians are often questioned and berated for the benefits they receive on the job, including their larger than average pay checks. So why don’t we do the same with trade union leaders? Like a politician, whose virtues we rarely believe in, they’re supposed to have the interest of the people.
Had the workers organized themselves and protested in a similar manner then maybe it’s something the whole population could get behind. Under the guidance of an external entity however is where ulterior motives come into play.
In the meantime many millions of Britons will have to miss work over the striking period, where some will lose pay.
Keep it on paper
I’d like to be pro-unions. I’d like to think they do have the best interests for those in their groups. But it’s hard to really accept when the demands are usually unrealistic, and the cost to the regular worker is high.
The concept of a trade union is great, just so long as it remains on paper.
Humans, for too many reasons to number, have an inherent way of ruining the ideas which are supposed to better us.