You may also have a tough job, but that doesn't mean you're right to complain about the Tube strike

Instead of attacking the strikers you should unionise and fight to improve your situation

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The Independent Online

“I’m overworked but you don’t see me going on strike”. We’ve all heard this reaction to the latest tube strikes. But if you’re responding in this way to industrial action, you’re missing the point. There’s no use in criticising workers who refuse to let London Underground exploit them simply because you’re overworked: you should unionise.

Tube drivers have explained time and again why they went on strike in July and why they’re doing the same today. It’s not about pay (although if it were, I’d support their right to strike over this, too) but hours. The Night Tube starts in September and under London Underground’s plan, Tube workers could have to work unlimited nightshifts. Workers asked for a limit on the number of night and weekend shifts they’re required to work. But London Underground refused to effectively engage with unions on the issue; they called an end to direct talks and began processing new rosters without addressing any of their workers’ concerns. And so, workers voted to go on a perfectly valid strike.

Nevertheless, a depressingly large number of Londoners seem angry that Tube workers are exercising their democratic right to strike. Here are just some of the tweets I've seen in response to the walk out:

These are all symptomatic of the attacks against Tube workers that have burst into life on social media. Meanwhile, unhelpful statistics comparing Tube drivers to hospital doctors circulate the internet. This encourages a race to the bottom; Tube workers and doctors should have better working conditions and rights. It’s not one or the other.

But these unconvinced Londoners have got it all wrong: if you’re suffering, you shouldn’t demand that others do too. It’s true that many people in the private and public sector are overworked and their workplace rights are regularly violated. The answer to these problems is not to expect Tube workers to stay silent while they’re forced to work unhealthy, unsafe and unfair hours. What you need to do is become part of a movement where you can work with others to get the rights you deserve. You need to join a union.

You’d certainly be welcome into the fold. Only 25 per cent of all employees are trade union members – that’s 14 per cent of the private sector and 54 per cent of the public sector. Unions are always keen to recruit more workers into their ranks, particularly at a time when their movement is under one of the biggest attacks in this country’s history. Under the Government’s new strike rules it will prove near impossible for public sector workers to legally go on strike and the Government has just announced plans that could potentially destroy union funding by making it more difficult for public sector workers to pay their subscription fees. We need a strong union movement to challenge this.

An empowered workforce united by solidarity is exactly what the Government doesn’t want. They’d much rather the state of play stayed the same as it is. If workers turn against each other then there’s no chance of a substantial challenge to their anti-worker plans. So don’t condemn striking Tube workers. Instead, celebrate the fact that they’re causing a major disruption, as it’s a sign that our power to organise effectively isn’t dead. Then take your working conditions into your own hands, and join a union.

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