Merry Christmas to the rail unions – they strike quicker than Harry Kane. On Friday, the Aslef union began a week of industrial action and reduced service, ruining Christmas parties across the nation. But like the good trade unionists that they are, Aslef boss Mick Whelan made sure that his own union’s party plans were unaffected by the service, hosting a 100-strong, full-trimmings bash at the four-star Earl of Doncaster hotel. So much for solidarity….
Whelan was featured in the Sun this morning, sharing a festive cracker with Labour MP Kate Osborne who on social media later praised her union ‘comrades’ and celebrating the ‘womderfully [sic] Christmas venue.’ Good night was it, Kate? In a sniffy comment the union claimed its shindig could not be considered a party on the grounds that ‘there was no music, no disco, no karaoke, and no dancing.’ With lines like that, maybe they ought to get a job in the Downing Street press office?
The public on the other hand may be a little less, er, enthusiastic about the timing of the bash. Support for striking rail workers has remained low all year: in March, only 32 per cent of people were sympathetic to striking train workers, compared to 58 per cent supporting ambulance drivers. And support has stagnated at only 36 per cent across separate polls in July and September.
It isn’t just commuters who have been left fuming at this week’s strikes: members of other unions aren’t much impressed either. Fully qualified train drivers can earn upwards of £65,000 — a rather lot more than nurses, who have expressed frustration at the latest round of industrial action. One deflated carer earning less than £400 a week told the Sun: ‘We work 12-hour shifts, all year round. I look at these striking drivers and think: “Spend a day in my shoes.”