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Smug Brits Don't Deserve the Tube Strike

These workers are concerned with the extra shifts they'll have to work to run the Tube's new all-night service. But they should be grateful. A tired conductor could mean British bodies sizzling over a burning train carriage.

Photo by Chris Brown

This article originally appeared on VICE UK

In any sane or rational world, Tube strike day would be a day of public celebration across London. There would be street parties, and small glasses of Pimm's, and slightly strange old men would wave little red flags around. Children might traipse up to workers on the picket line to throw garlands of flowers over their heads. The desperate and unemployed, lurking around overpriced bars at three in the afternoon, would insist to anyone of the opposite sex within earshot that they were actually a striking train driver. Tube strikes are an incredible gift to all the people of London, and we ought to be grateful.


But we don't live in a sane or rational world; we live in a stinking, bubbling bog of meanness and misery, a viscous and never-ending sludge leaking out from our own failed imaginations and our fundamental lack of human decency. We thrash around in our own mire. And instead of celebrating the Tube strike, we have the gall to complain.

People complain about Tube strikes for any number of reasons, but they're all utterly idiotic. There are some who seem to resent the idea of collective industrial action altogether. Yes, the power of workers to strike might have given us such useful inventions as "the weekend" and "not being mangled into a splinter-strewn pulp by an industrial lathe at the age of 14," but we have those things now, and the idea that we should continue to fight for a minimally livable life is now an outmoded relic of a past age.

Others are very upset by the fact that it's Tube workers who are taking this kind of action. A wail rises up from across the city. "But they make $50,000 a year! They get decent pensions! How dare they keep going on strike?" For some reason, these people have a hard time connecting the fact that workers on the Tube haven't yet been reduced to outright penury with the fact that their unions are actually willing to take action when necessary. They seem to think that their comparatively decent compensation is down to some kind of magnanimity on the part of the bosses.


But the loudest complaint is also the most pathetic, escaping like a slow, squeaking fart from out one side of a scrunched-up, sphinctered face. "But I'll be late for wooooorrrrk!" The indignity, the sheer horror.

Regardless of how you feel about industrial action, you should be supporting the Tube strike. Government figures are accusing the unions of striking out of "sour grapes" over the Conservative election victory and of "holding the city to ransom," which is for some reason supposed to be a bad thing.

In fact, the main factor contributing to the strike is the unions' concern over working hours once an all-night Tube service is introduced later this year. Taking frequent night shifts doesn't just lead to a medically significant decline in the quality of life, it can also adversely impact alertness and concentration on the job. For the people on strike, being tired at work won't just result in some slightly overcooked pie charts; it could result in dozens of bodies sizzling like prawns over a burning train carriage. This is a risk that management are willing to take, but the people on the picket lines are striking to save your life. And you hate them for it. Apparently, a significant portion of this city would rather turn up for work on time in a casket than alive and a few minutes late.

Generally it's not people whose livelihoods are actually under threat that complain about Tube strikes. It's the great bland middle, the office drones, furious at being held up on their way to a job that they hate and that they know is beneath them. The strikers have given you a wonderful gift, out of the goodness of their hearts: They've given you a rock-solid excuse for coming into the office as late as you like.


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You could make a day of it. Have a lie-in, take a leisurely brunch, stand under the open air for a few minutes. Take the bus; pretend the windows are big high-definition screens if it'll make you feel better. Or walk, and watch the dim throbbing heart of this city slowly choke itself to extinction. But you're far too eager to safely bury yourself in a big ugly building with people you despise, so you can waste your day finding out what kind of pug BuzzFeed thinks you are, or hammering your frankly worthless opinions into the comment boxes below VICE articles.

You need to waste time in an office, rather than at home, or else you're no better than a scrounger. You hate the strikers because they terrify you; they're a nauseating reminder that it's still possible to have some freedom in your life, that there are things you could fight for. So you go on Twitter to say that they should all be sacked (or, preferably, shot), because you'd rather hide in a cubicle than look yourself squarely in the eye.

During the last round of industrial action on the Underground in 2014, there were some proposals for a "fare strike" to build public sympathy for the unions. The idea was that the Tube would go on running as normal, but all gates would be left open—management would lose their profits, and nobody would have to be late for work. The fare strike didn't take place, but it's obvious what would've happened. You would have tapped your Oyster card anyway, and pranced through the ticket gate with a smug little smile, because you're a good citizen. There's a kind of measly, pathetic ingratitude to all this that's absolutely unique to the British. In any other country they'd at least recognize that the inconvenience is worthwhile. Not here. The Tube strikers are trying to help you, and you spit in their faces. You don't deserve this strike.

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