24-Hour Tube Services in London? Let the Unions Fail

Posted: Lukas Mikelionis Date: 2014-01-25 12:25

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London

Boris Johnson, the buffoonish London Mayor, finally made something wise. After all, there’s nothing special about night time, it’s not 50s’ anymore, when being not at home at midnight implied having rather lose lifestyle, disgraceful attitude towards existing order. In other words, being in central meant that you must have been doing something immoral, especially if your gender happens to be female. But Boris’ plans to make London underground services run all-night at weekends from 2015 is a reaction to changing society and only old-style statist socialist thinking is against that.

Now, sure, there’ll be job losses, partly to transform the system into the 21stcentury one, which means kicking people out of the ticket offices and making them to work on the platform, partly because the current ticket system will cease to exist together with the reform. Only by being a die-hard unions and public sector fan, you could justify the moaning of unions. Every job loss is a tragedy if the situation is taken without thinking about larger social good.

I’m not hostile to labour unions, yet I often find their actions rather backward, especially when anti-innovation individual controls them. If every decision would be left to the latter, oyster card wouldn’t exists, tubes would run from 10am till 5pm, together with an exception of 12pm when it’s happy break time, and every year the price of the paper ticket would increase according to inflation, just so that we, the customers, would support every real decrease in worker’s pay check, while nobody guarantees the same luxury to those in private sector. We would also witness constant delays due to inability to hire better staff at the expense of firing the old one, whereas investment would be directed towards increasing already relatively cosy work environment instead of new trains and other vital developments. This is a horrific, backward image, in brief.

Larger social good is actually a reaction to rise of people who want to work additional hours without any constraints. Seriously, why should anyone deny the right to me to take late-night shifts? Or if you’ve ever been on late-night bus on Saturday morning, you’d notice a substantial number of people who struggling to get home in residential areas. Travelling 2 hours by bus is an unproductive waste of time for which, sadly, we neither get paid nor get any satisfaction.

London mayor doesn’t go far enough, to be fair. The transport should be accessible any time everyday. We’re no longer living in an economy, which forbids working on Sunday, as according to some primitive book it’s bad, or an economy that halts when clocks tick 12am. This is wrong approach, impoverishes people and tightens labour market by forcing all people to compete in 10am to 5pm window when it’s, according to authority, acceptable to work.

No, this is not some tirade inspired by Thatcherism or any other sort of liberal economics. Everyone both on the left or right must be in favour of this idea. This isn’t the idea that by making tube available all-night, is a hidden vile agenda of forcing poor working class to work additional hours at nigh to, and extract their precious work fruits, while they get just enough to get by. Nonetheless, with increasing part-time jobs, why would this be a bad thing? We want jobs that pay well and have steady hours, so why, again, we force all people compete in the same period of time?

In principle, the Left must support this mostly because Britain has large influx of additional workforce, notwithstanding still high unemployment level, but denying the right for, for instance, EU workers to come would be debacle in the long term due to aging population and ability to generate ideas, as welfare state would go bankrupt quickly enough. The Right, meanwhile, must approve it because it will transform economy into 24-hour broad wealth spawning generator. China may be workshop of the world but workshops eventually close at night, whereas Britain can become a rogue never-ending industrial machine just by being able to mobilise people to work at night.

I do fear, however, that the left could take the side of unions mainly because of pragmatic reasons. Turning their back on unions will never be politically profitable. In fact, an idea that leisure time can only start after 5pm is still a vivid. Unfortunately, it’s also false and out-dated. The leisure time is set individually and nobody should tell you when it’s right to have it.

Job losses in London underground services are a small sacrifice compared to goods that will flourish in return. The stubbornness of unions is unfair and unjust rule by the minority over majority. I say, Boris, go for this full-speed.

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