11 Mar 2014

Bob Crow 1961-2014

Asking whether Bob Crow is the “last of his kind” overlooks the specific power of the RMT.¬† His union pretty much had the power to paralyse the London Underground, likewise parts of the national rail network.

Oil tanker drivers are the nearest recent  comparable workforce for ability to throttle a sector. Some recent civil service strike actions show the relative lack of power even quite well-supported industrial action can have because of its lack of impact on everyday lives.

Bob Crow bequeaths his successor a similar power if he or she is mandated to use it. The skill comes in making members feel confident you know what you’re doing with that muscle, that you can pull off a deal that improves their terms of employment and doesn’t end up, Scargill-style, over-reaching and landing them out of work.

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The various political forces in the RMT do not make that a foregone conclusion. Bob Crow pulled off the balancing act and saw membership of his union rise 23,000 during his term of office.

Like Boris Johnson, who’d crossed swords only last month with Bob Crow, Ken Livingstone paid tribute to the late RMT general secretary’s work. But the two fell out in 2007 when Ken Livingstone as Mayor claimed Bob Crow was holding a strike despite being given every concession he’d wanted.

He accused Mr Crow of “misusing the strike weapon, basically as a bullying technique rather than to resolve a genuine and irreconcilable difference … a small handful of people on the RMT executive are behaving rather more like a protection racket than a proper industrial union”.

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One reader comment

  1. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    “……Scargill-style, over-reaching and landing them out of work.”

    What a load of utter nonsense.

    BEFORE the miners strike Scargill warned the tories were planning to close down coal mining. Which they did after the strike, via Heseltine and the imported Yank McGregor. And also after the Nottinghamshire miners led by Roy Lynx split from the NUM – and were then of course betrayed by the same tories who set them up.

    In fact the tories deliberately planned to instigate the strike and even set out their conspiracy in The Economist of 27th May, 1978, when Nicholas Ridley said:
    – Rig capital figures.
    – Choose the area of provocation (at the time Ridley suggested railways, British Leyland, the civil service or steel).
    – Bribe electricity and gas workers so they would not support the miners.
    – Build up coal stocks at power stations.
    – Import coal.
    – Recruit non-union lorry drivers for movement of coal and to cross picket lines.
    – Make power stations dual coal/oil-firing.
    – Cut off money to miners families.
    – Form new large police squads specifically to break the strike.

    Scargill didn’t “over-reach.” The miners made democratic decisions because they were convinced their livelihoods and communities were under mortal threat. And they were absolutely right. Lynx and co. turned out to be the suckers.

    To blame Scargill for “…landing them out of work” is either dishonest or ignorant. It was the tories led by Heseltine and Ridley who long before planned to provoke the strike and destroy the mining industry. You might at least own up to which of the defaults you are guilty of.

    As for Bob Crow, he was villified because he fought for workers rights and in so doing might inconvenience some selfish London people who couldn’t care less about anybody but themselves. Both Livingstone and Johnson wer of course just establishment mouthpieces.

    What this once again demonstrates is just how much you London media people haven’t the first clue about, (a) Actual history, (b) The damage done to the rest of the nation, (c) The lives and wellbeing of evetrybody else outside that tiny corrupt world by the Thames.

    Shame on you, shame on you all.

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