Bob Crow, the left-wing union leader whose London Underground members threaten to inflict chaos on London commuters, has launched a spirited defence of his decision to take a break in Brazil as the strike loomed.
Mr Crow, whose members employed by the Tube are due to walk out on a 48-hour strike on Tuesday evening, had been pictured in the Daily Mail relaxing in the sun on the Copacabana Beach and sipping from a coconut while negotiations to avert the strike in London were making no progress.
Two transport unions, the RMT and TSSA, oppose a plan to close booking offices on the Tube, to make way for commercial outlets such as Amazon and Waitrose, at a cost of about 800 jobs. Talks by the conciliation service Acas, aimed at averting a strike, ended yesterday without an agreement.
Mr Crow, who is General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, vigorously defended his decision to take a £10,000 holiday, which had been booked months in advance, saying that it would have made no difference to the dispute if he had been in London.
He accused London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, of refusing to meet union leaders. He also told a press conference at the TUC’s London headquarters that he had spotted the holiday advertised in a copy of the Daily Mail which was being given away free in his gym.
“They’re the ones that were advertising it, so they’re saying to people ‘go on holiday’ but when you go on holiday, you shouldn’t go on it. So why are they advertising it in the first place?” he asked.
“I’d love to see what the bill was to send a guy out to Rio: it must have cost more money than my holiday did. One bloke there, he looked like one of those old Russian spies, sitting there behind a paper. My job is to defend working people.”
His comments came as the Mayor of London moved to capitalise on the controversy. “After I offered to sit down with Bob Crow if he called off the strikes I received an email, presumably sent from his Brazilian beach hideaway, that said he’d be in touch today,” Boris Johnson said.
“Well Bob, you haven’t rung. That suggests, sadly, that Bob Crow is determined to strike, even though a massive 70 per cent of his own members don’t even back him. Instead of trying to bolster sagging union membership, Bob should call off the strikes, engage with TfL’s consultation and with me. Instead he seems hell bent on attempting to disrupt the lives of hard-working Londoners through strike action that is utterly, utterly pointless.”