Minding the Gap (in services)

Mind The Gap

Today I am going to have a whinge. Boxing Day was a big deal for our family. We had been planning a wonderful day out to London to visit Harrods, enjoy a nice meal out and take in a West End show. We had tickets for the evening performance of Shrek – The Musical, and we were all very excited.

But we didn’t reckon on the staff on the London Underground, who had their own agenda. Apparently, Underground train drivers (who by the way get 43 days off and earn around £30,000 a year, but can boost their earnings with overtime to more than £45,000 a year) are apparently not getting enough ‘quality time’ at Christmas!

So what part of Shift-Work or Unsociable Hours did you not understand? Did no-one explain this to you when you took the job? Have your pay and conditions suddenly been altered without your agreement? Of course not. You are just exercising your collective muscle to try and squeeze a bit more out of a system that treats you very well already.

It’s not as if tube drivers are not getting well paid for this work already. Part of their annual leave entitlement is the National or Bank Holidays that British workers are entitled to, but as with most shift workers, they are given to them elsewhere in the year to enable the system to function all year round. These guys are then paid Double Time if they happen to be ‘on duty’ on the day a Bank Holiday occurs.

We had paid a lot of money for the tickets to the show, and the day out was to be the hi-light of our Christmas break, so we couldn’t really afford to cancel it. We had to take our chances that there would be some buses available at night that would see us safely back to where we left our car.

On the odd occasion when we travel to London it usually goes like this; a Car drive to Chiswick on the outskirts of West London, followed by a tube ride from Turnham Green station into Central London. Boxing Day was no exception – we took the tube from Turnham Green on the limited service that was running and put up with the necessary walking and bus rides to get us from A to B. After the show we discovered that the limited tube services available had now finished for the day, so we spent half an hour trying to find a bus to take us back to Chiswick.

We eventually wound up on the number 94 which was unbelievably overcrowded. We had to force our way on to the bus through a horde of desperate people all pushing and shoving to get on in case they were left to await the next bus which may well be full already. The journey was about an hour and twenty minutes of travelling cattle class, standing room only, desperately trying to prevent our four year old from being squashed to death by the crush of angry people. Somewhere on the journey, thankfully not right next to us, someone threw up. despite the added hazard of a slippery puddle of vomit to contend with, we arrived safely back at our car and in good spirits.

We didn’t let the tube strike ruin our day out. We toughed it out, and had a great day anyway. But I can’t help thinking about all the people that didn’t get to spend ‘quality time’ with relatives and loved ones because of this strike. Or the countless struggling businesses that lost valuable revenue on what should have been one of their best trading days of the year. God knows we are living in difficult financial times right now, times when we need everyone pulling in the same direction, for the common good.

So Mr Whelan, I implore you, put away your politics of self interest and get your people back to work. They are lucky they have such good jobs, pay and conditions. Many of us are not so fortunate.

What do you think? Have I got this one so wrong? Let me know what you think and as long as it isn’t too abusive I will post it!

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