World Cup "Common Sense"

Submitted by Tubeworker on Tue, 06/10/2014 - 03:41

"Businesses hail 'victory for common sense'", the Evening Standard bellows, announcing Transport for London's decision to lay on extra night bus services after England's first World Cup game on Saturday. The Standard claims its "appeal" for the extra transport is what swayed TfL.

So much expressed in so short a headline! How much it does indeed tell us about the "common sense" of London's "business community", and the values of its propaganda sheet, the Evening Standard!

The "appeal" for extra transport, which began as a demand to open the Tube for an extra hour, gives us an insight into the kind of transport system the Standard, and the bosses whose interests it represents, wants London to have: one with a deregulated, casualised workforce, where workers' hours can be radically extended and shifts rearranged at the drop of a hat, as long as it suits the needs of "business".

It also tells us that the Standard, which opines so confidently about how job cuts and ticket office closures will benefit the public, knows absolutely nothing about how a railway is run.

However, the (obviously intentional) propagandistic corollary of the Standard's campaign is that workers who object to our terms and conditions being abused can be painted as curmudgeons who won't let Londoners have fun and enjoy the football.

We can see the vox pop now: "They hold us to ransom with their strikes and they can't even be bothered to work an extra hour to get us home from watching the footy!", said Tarquin, financial consultant, 32, from Surrey. Quite aside from the fact that the complex logistics of engineering and maintenance schedules make it utterly impossible to extend traffic hours at no notice, scheduling an extra hour of work, late at night, for thousands of workers would have massive knock-on consequences for us as staff.

Tubeworker has no objection to special arrangements being made for popular sporting or cultural events. Many Tubeworker supporters and correspondents will be enjoying the World Cup ourselves. But any such arrangements need to be discussed well in advance, in full consultation with unions, and workers properly compensated. Have these discussions taken place with bus workers' union representatives?

Consider the context for a moment. A right-wing, anti-union paper is calling for an expanded transport service (even just for one night), while simultaneously cheering on London Underground's vicious staff cuts.

This is the supreme irony of the Standard's "appeal". What would really enable the Tube to expand and run for longer would be a massive programme of investment (rather than the 12.5% cut in funding TfL currently faces) and a huge increase in staffing levels, rather than LU's proposed 953 job bonfire. To run safely, for longer, to more destinations, the Tube needs more secure, well-trained, well-paid staff.

In its petulant appeals for ad hoc service expansions to benefit "business", the Standard serves to re-emphasise what Tube workers already know: to serve Londoners better, and for longer, LU's programme of cuts and closures must be stopped and reversed.

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