Bugger. There is a threatened rail strike this weekend; the weekend of LUGRadio Live 2006. Firstly, here are some useful links if you are coming to LUGRadio Live 2006 and planned on getting the train:
- More details on the strike
- Updated travel details on the LUGRadio Live 2006 site
- Car Pooling wiki – if you have spare places, update that page!!
- National Express – get a coach instead of a train with National Express
- Alternative rail timetable if the strike goes ahead
In a nutshell, the strike is planned between 12pm on Friday 21st June and 12pm on Saturday 22nd June. It is important to remember that the strike is not yet confirmed. It may not go ahead. There are plenty of other transport options, so just plan your trip soon and you will be fine.
So, with a potential train strike, how do we react? Well, I first updated the LUGRadio Live travel page and there has been discussion on the forums. In true, awesome, inspiring, community spirit, the LUGRadio community have collected together to offer car seat places. Head over to the car pooling wiki page to offer any spaces in your car and to see which spaces are available. It is nice to see the page growing quickly.
This morning I wanted to get a handle on the situation, so I called the RMT; the organisation behind the strike. I spoke to their communications officer who indicated their requirements behind the strike. If I understand correctly, they want a 3.2% wage increase in line with the rate of inflation over a 1 year period, and a 35 hour working week. I was informed that this is the standard package for Network Rail employees, but RMT members seem to bet a bum deal. I asked a barrage of questions, one of which was how much negotiation is going on. I was informed that not much was happening at the moment and Network Rail were not particularly forthcoming in negotiations. I asked if RMT would call off the strike if Network Rail at least agreed to sit down and negotiate, and the representative said they would.
To get a balanced view I called Network Rail’s head office and initially spoke to their switchboard supervisor who said I could not speak to anyone there (you know, I thought calling a head office would get me some answers, funny that…). After iterating that I have a very real interest in this issue as I am one of the organisers behind a medium to large event in the UK, I was put through to the normal customer helpdesk, who could not help me. I called back, spoke to someone else, and despite saying the helpdesk could not assist me, got put through anyway. I rang back a third time and asked to speak to a manager and explained the situation, and finally got through to a communications officer. I was then told some rather different things about the situation. Apparently Network Rail are in active negotiations, and are trying to strike a balance with the RMT. Network Rail have been working to have a longer period for the deal which prevent further strikes – a 20 month period as opposed to a 12 month period. This is the core sticking point in striking a deal.
So, what is going on? Well, who knows. I was personally surprised at how much bickering is going on between the two organisations. This is a very emotive issue, and not the first conflict between the two organisations. The bickering surprises me – sure, there is a conflict here, but it all very reminiscent of the playground when I was at primary school. This is just my interpretation, but with an objective perspective on the issue, it struck me that the real issues were getting a little lost in the bickering. I just hope they resolve it soon. Striking is never an ideal course of action, and the RMT acknowledge that. There is a responsibility between these two organisations to sort this out, and sort it out fast.