Saturday, 26 June 2010

Let's scrap London taxi drivers!

The Tories could be looking into automating the entire Tube system and getting rid of all the drivers. Brian Coleman, for one, is keen on the idea. (Thanks to Joe Robb for this story.) The justification would be to save money, and avoid the disruption caused on those - actually, very rare - occasions when Tube workers go on strike.

All the workers who lost their job through such an act of unnatural wastage would... do what instead?

A large part of the justification made by the Tories for their public spending cuts budget, which will inevitably end in massive job losses - most of those people doing useful jobs - is that the unemployed will be soaked up by a massive expansion of jobs in the private sector, doing... well, many of them, presumably, the jobs that they were doing in the public sector, only worse paid. Remember the care workers in Barnet who transfered from direct council employment to work for the Fremantle "charity" and had their pay, pensions and leave cut by a third.

This transfer of jobs from the public to the private sector will also result in a relatively few private individuals creaming off a profit from our taxes. Makes sense? Not to me.

As for the improving efficiency argument, I don't believe in creating work for the sake of it, but it is far better to have everyone working even at the risk of being under-employed than what we increasingly see: large numbers of people idle and in poverty while those "lucky" enough to have a job work long hours under increasing stress. Rather than cutting jobs, why not cut hours?

The fundamental question is: who benefits from increasing efficiency? Is it all of us, society as a whole, or just a relative few, our employers, shareholders?

And as for that Brian Coleman, he seems to be in favour of maximum efficiency for everyone else and minimum efficiency for himself. Unlike on London Underground, which seems to me rather thinly staffed, the ratio of worker to passenger in Coleman's case is close to 1:1.

Has he ever wondered how much those taxi drivers he uses are earning and whether he is getting good value for money? Not for a second, I don't suppose, because he's not paying the fares, we are.


Mrs Angry said...

In defence of taxi drivers, and God knows I don't want to be seen in the same company as Brian 'Call me a Cab' Coleman, I have had some of the most interesting political discussions with these guys: they really are the salt of the earth. And mini cab drivers, usually being from all corners of the world, always have very enlightening life stories to share, you learn a lot from chatting to these blokes.Coleman is simply obsessed with confrontation, and union bashing is one way in which he can indulge himself.

Citizen Barnet said...

It's OK, Mrs Angry, I don't really want to scrap taxi drivers. I just wanted to draw attention to some anomalies.

For example, the small business person plying their trade is always viewed far more benignly than the poor working-class woman or man who gets a job in a public service, especially when the government/councillors want someone to bash, or scapegoat for the country's woes. (If I see another headline about gold-plated pensions I'll scream.)

It's routinely assumed, by Tory politicians, and too many Tory voters, that public sector workers are lead-swingers. Well, they're not any more lazy or greedy than your average small business person, I suspect. Possibly less so.

As it happens, quite a lot of taxi drivers are organised in trade unions. Unite, for example - the union that organises the BA cabin crew - has a London cab drivers section.

So Coleman should perhaps be more careful when he berates the unions... Oh, fat chance!

Mrs Angry said...

Yes, I'm not sure who it is that has these possibly mythical gold plated pensions: apart from a few lucky senior officers. Most people in the local public sector I would guess are in relatively lowly paid jobs and are also in the least secure posts.
I don't think our Brian would dare get on the wrong side of a London cabbie: he would be in the losing side, that's for sure!