“He’s a communist. He’s antichrist. He’s in opposition to God,” shouts a protester as Mick Lynch and the remainder of the RMT delegation arrive for talks. “Blimey,” says Lynch, unhappy eyes a-twinkle. “It’s essential to get up, younger man!” provides the protester. “At the very least he known as me younger,” says Lynch. You want a thick pores and skin to be a union chief in 2023.
Strike: Contained in the Unions profiles three senior union figures as a winter of discontent blossoms right into a spring of one thing worse. I by no means thought I’d see the day: since Margaret Thatcher’s defeat of the miners’ strike in 1985, it has appeared scarcely credible that organised labour may galvanise widespread industrial motion, nonetheless much less command public help for it.
We see Lynch, together with Unite’s Sharon Graham and the RCN’s Pat Cullen, sparring with my most esteemed media colleagues. We comply with them whereas they shadow field a authorities that postures as if it isn’t carrying gloves, isn’t within the ring, and is certainly not teaching pay evaluation our bodies between rounds. Though two-thirds of the leaders profiled listed below are girls, it’s Lynch and his unremittingly male negotiating workforce who’re the main target. Again and again they strut in tweeds and flat caps by means of the streets to a different face-off with the working canine of capital. It’s as if Peaky Blinders by no means ended.
Not everyone within the media is a authorities lickspittle with out two mind cells to rub collectively, however generally this programme makes you surprise. On Discuss TV, for example, presenter Mike Graham nominates RMT normal secretary Lynch as Plank of the Week for combating for a pay rise for his members. “They don’t want more cash,” says Graham, though the reduce in actual wages practice employees, together with nurses, academics, TV critics and different key employees over the previous decade – plus the rising incidence of employees utilizing meals banks and taking second jobs – suggests Graham has acquired his sums fallacious.
Talking of planks, Graham has earlier with wooden. He’s the shock jock who damned Insulate Britain’s Cameron Ford for being a carpenter and thus depleting pure assets. “Wooden is regenerative, you possibly can develop timber,” countered Ford. “You possibly can’t develop concrete.” “Sure, you possibly can,” retorted Graham.
Neither the federal government nor the businesses concerned in these many disputes agreed to participate on this collection, so the makers try for stability by together with clips from the likes of Grant Shapps saying inflation is Vladimir Putin’s fault. We see Rishi Sunak inform us that the RCN’s name for an increase of 5% above inflation (which, simply earlier than Christmas, was working at 10.7%) is out of order. “I believe most individuals watching would realise that’s not reasonably priced.”
I’d wish to see the prime minister’s information for that perception. Mine suggests most individuals imagine that those who don’t know what most individuals assume are the politicians who’ve had a £250,000 swimming pool put in at their grade-II listed manor home requiring a particular provide from the electrical energy firm throughout a value of dwelling disaster.
Pat Cullen notes that the 4% pay rise provided to nurses by the unbiased pay evaluation physique really represents a pay reduce. She additionally argues that there’s nothing unbiased concerning the pay evaluation physique: it’s a fig leaf hiding authorities coverage. Lynch, equally, finds it curious to have negotiations with railway firms which have little room to manoeuvre since they’re, he thinks, constrained by authorities coverage. If, he says, these firms may negotiate independently, there might need been no want for strike motion. As an alternative, as his assistant normal secretary Eddie Dempsey places it: “They’ve acquired a authorities that has reduce their budgets and so they ain’t acquired sufficient cash. We’ve acquired members who ain’t acquired sufficient cash. That’s a tough circle to sq..”
Playing cards on the desk: all through my profession I’ve been a member of the Nation Union of Journalists (different, non-unionised TV critics can be found). Have you ever ever been on strike? Me neither, and I hope I by no means need to. There’s one second that captures how tough and divisive strike motion is. Sarah, a Unite union officer, arrives early at Walworth bus storage on the primary day of a proposed 10-day strike by Abellio bus drivers in south London. It’s darkish and no different pickets have arrived when she notices headlamps come on and a bus begin shifting towards her. It’s her colleague, Mark, who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay.
Sharon Graham, the primary feminine normal secretary of Unite, tells us that whereas Abellio made £350m income in 2022, its bus drivers are the poorest paid in London. Abellio is owned by the Dutch authorities.
“Mark!” Sarah wails, because the double-decker edges in direction of her, “Don’t!” She steps apart. He drives off into the daybreak, leaving Sarah in tears. “I’m so indignant,” she says. Indignant, maybe not a lot at Mark breaking ranks as on the hardship for bus drivers. No surprise, provided that it comes at a time when income are hovering.