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Unions Across the Pond: Why the RMT Union Is Killing Transport in the United Kingdom

Union Avoidance AdviceWhat happens when a union has too much power? In the United Kingdom, there are several powerful unions, such as the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), which repeatedly butt heads with local employers. With tactics that often result in repeated strikes, the unions ultimately damage the workforce far more than they help it.

Strikes Cause Resentment

Because the London Underground (equivalent to the New York Metro) is so integral to London’s mass transit system, any strike action involving its staff means widespread disruption to the up to 4.4 million people who use it each day. Consequently, staff are constantly pilloried in the local and national press after another inflation-breaking increase in wages is announced. This confrontational atmosphere isn’t ideal. Rather than fostering employee communication or good relations with superiors, it encourages management to low-ball wage increases as strike actions will happen regardless.

Management Seeks Alternatives

Already, numerous self-service machines have been installed throughout the Underground, replacing staff at the ticket office who would have served customers. Transport for London (TfL), the main authority that runs the Underground, announced in 2014 that it was looking to run driverless trains by the mid-2020s. Although The Telegraph noted that the trains would initially be manned, when the entire fleet can be run without drivers, it eventually will be. Part of this is due to the long-running dispute between TfL and the RMT, which forced TfL to look at other options due to constant threats of strike action.

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Staff Loses Out

Every day that a member of the RMT is away from his job, that person has to make up the hours or lose the pay. In the case of an Underground train driver, that works out at a hefty $300 per day lost. A two-day strike means that the gain of an additional half a percent to the wage packet is completely eliminated by the loss of two days of work. A three-day strike means that extra half a percent is a loss.

Overall, the RMT’s tactics have meant that staff lose out in respect and pay, and many jobs are being lost because staff go on strike far too often — despite enjoying extremely good terms and conditions of work. Upper management have adopted a policy of cutting staffing levels and searching for reliable alternatives to hiring more employees, destroying the jobs that the RMT was meant to protect. While some may argue that this would’ve happened anyway, an unreliable workforce meant that this was guaranteed to happen as soon as the technology was there.

A unionfree.com website can help employees on either side of the Atlantic understand the implications of a strike without ever having to go through one. Include the exclusive UnionProof interactive strike calculator to promote understanding of the personal risks of a work stoppage. Employees input their hourly wage rate, and the estimated length of a strike to see the true monetary risk – and how difficult it is to earn that money back. Find out more about a unionfree.com website for your company by downloading our free report, here.