Robert Hampton

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11th March 2014

As The Crow Flies
Posted by at 11.01pm | In the News | No responses

Shocking news today – the leader of the RMT Union, Bob Crow, has died. He was only 52.

Crow was a popular hate figure for commuters, the right-wing press and politicians. In disputes on the London Underground, he locked horns with both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson. Arguably, he ran rings around both of them.

Unions are the big bogeymen for the right, what with their insistence on fair pay and conditions for workers and demands for basic human rights. Without their influence, we’d still be sending kids up chimneys. We need more union influence in everyday life, not less – especially now, as the Tories systematically strip away employment rights under the guise of “getting rid of red tape”.

I remember reading a blog comments thread discussing an impending Tube strike. One indignant commenter complained that Underground staff were far better paid than him, and if he didn’t turn up for work he’d get sacked, and it wasn’t fair. The response came from a member of railway staff: maybe if you had a union, you would have better conditions of employment.

It’s been a while since a rail strike inconvenienced me, so maybe I’m being more charitable than some other people would be, but I think, ultimately, Bob Crow was right on most issues. As we saw in the recent Underground ticket office dispute, Crow was never afraid to stand up and fight for what he believed in – a safe railway, run by staff who are treated well. Whoever succeeds him has some big shoes to fill.