British Airways just became the eighth major corporation to face strike action this Christmas. If successive Conservative governments didn’t privatise essential services, economically cripple the few still publicly-owned, and facilitate terrible working pay and conditions in the private sector, our services would be looking a whole lot better this holiday season.
Strikes gain momentum across the country
Staff at eight corporate giants have voted for strike action this Christmas so far.
- Southern Rail.
- Royal Mail Post Office staff.
- Great Western Railway cleaners.
- Workers at Diageo, Britain’s biggest alcohol company.
- Transport for London (TfL) office staff.
- Workers at Tangerine, the sweet factory that makes Mint Humbugs.
- Workers at IT giant Fujitsu.
- British Airways.
How dare these workers disrupt our Christmas!
This is the reaction of some, including Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun. The paper’s editorial called for corporate owners to “crush” striking Southern Rail staff, clarifying:
That means ordering them to return to work or face the dole.
Caroline Lucas offered a different reaction. The Green MP demanded that Theresa May sack her Transport Secretary Chris Grayling and “strip” the private rail operator of the Southern Rail service.
The Southern Rail strikes were organised by unions RMT and Aslef.
Southern Rail, along with the rest of British Rail, was sold off by Conservative Prime Minister John Major in the 1990s. So it went from public to private ownership. Railways are a natural monopoly, meaning the private company can cut back spending to increase profits, at the expense of passengers and staff. Companies can hold the country to ransom, because we need to travel. That’s why we pay obscene subsidies to private railway companies here in Britain. Richard Branson’s West Coast mainline received government handouts between 1997-2012 that tally up to £2.79bn at today’s prices.
At the same time, tickets have gone up 24% in real terms since British Rail was privatised. We are being ripped off for our train tickets, twice.
Having private railways sets us apart from most of Europe, where we also have the most expensive fares.
Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald called the railway system a “rip-off”, saying:
Privatisation has produced an inefficient and expensive service. It is the passengers and taxpayers who pay the price and it is about time we brought this to an end and put fairness and value into the way we run our railways
It’s a similar story with Royal Mail. The Conservative government sold off our remaining 30% stake in Royal Mail for £1.3bn in June 2015. Royal Mail revealed profits of £440m in 2013, up from £152m in 2012. Keeping this stake, or larger, would make the public money. That money could then be reinvested, delivering a better service for customers and working conditions for staff. Then, staff wouldn’t need to strike.
Hold on, TfL is publicly owned and they’re striking
If institutions are publicly owned, they must still be properly funded. But The Guardian reports:
Transport for London’s operational budget of almost £700m a year will be entirely wiped out before the end of the decade, leaving TfL to fund its services through commercial investment, cuts or potentially higher fares.
Conservative austerity means that public services are crippled, and therefore cannot function properly. In turn, this manufactures the argument for them to privatised.
The Conservative government is facilitating terrible working conditions in the private and ever diminishing public sector. It is to blame for the strikes, not the workers. When taken entirely for granted by huge corporations, workers have the right to withdraw their labour.
– Sign the petition to renationalise the railways.
– Support Bring Back British Rail, campaigning for renationalisation.
Featured image via Policy Exchange/Flickr
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