Insanity on the London Underground

2004

Many of our U.S. visitors will be lucky if they get two weeks paid holiday this year.

So they will be even more staggered than we are to learn that 7,000 station staff on the London Underground system have forced their bosses to agree to a deal that gives them 52 days paid holiday a year – that's 10 weeks.

The deal means that staff will be paid (by us) to take 43 per cent of the year off work.

The deal was negotiated by the RMT union, which takes particular pleasure in holding Britain's capital city to ransom.

It comprises a 35-hour working week under which staff would be on duty for 37.5 hours, and can then roll the extra two and a half hours into additional rest days. In addition, staff will get nine more 'rest days' to add to their previous six, plus 29 days annual leave and eight bank holidays.

And, surprise, surprise, London Underground's are now threatening strikes to get the same time off - they already work a 35 hour week.

Most Londoners will probably agree with Roger Evans, Conservative transport spokesman on the London Assembly, who said that the deal was "beyond comprehension.

"It is an outrageous insult to every hard-working Londoner. Yet again we're seeing the unions holding the capital to ransom. They know the threat of strikes always pays off. The answer is to ban strikes on the Underground," he said.

An RMT spokesman attempted to justify the deal: "It's a very, very stressful job. This is not about them being greedy but wanting quality time away from work."

Others with stressful jobs – the police, emergency services, doctors, nurses – might disagree.

This reminds us of the 1970s. But of course, the Underground system worked a lot better then . . . .