Robert Hampton

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11th February 2014

Office Space
Posted by at 10.59pm | Uncategorised | No responses

Train in Euston Square Underground stationThe good news for Londoners is that the Tube strike, planned to start tonight, has been called off. The RMT and TSSA unions have got their wish for further consultation over London Underground’s plan to close London Underground ticket offices. A shame that London had to endure 48 hours of disruptive strike action, but when you elect someone like Boris Johnson, you can’t expect good results.

It’s true that technology is changing the way people pay for public transport. The Oyster card is almost magic compared to the scratch-off Saveaway tickets which Merseytravel are still using. We’re promised contactless credit card technology in the very near future as well. However, I don’t think that technology has reached the point where the humble ticket office can be done away with.

There’s a lot to be said for the human touch. BBC Two’s 2012 documentary series The Tube showed a dedicated workforce working hard to keep the often-creaking network running, in the face of often abusive passengers. I worry that, for all TfL’s protestations that all stations will retain a visible staff presence, somewhere down the line it will be decided that the network can do without them at all, and numbers will be cut to the absolute minimum required to comply with safety regulations.

My opinion on this is influenced by my experience of Berlin’s transport system when I visited in 2012. Very efficient and reliable, but run with minimal staffing. At Schönefeld Airport station, there were no staff visible at all to help visitors find their train or to help buy a ticket. Not a good first impression. I would hate for that to happen in London.

Hopefully, with the strikes called off for now, the process of ticket office closures can be managed with the co-operation of the unions, to achieve the best result for staff and passengers alike. If TfL want to save money, how about getting rid of expensive custom buses and the glorified funfair ride that almost nobody uses?

3rd December 2011

Cone off the Mersey Tunnels
Posted by at 11.24pm | In the News | 1 response

So, November 30th. It was, we were told, a national day of action by public sector workers, when the evil/heroic unions (depending on which newspaper you read) would succeed/fail in bringing Britain to a standstill (again, depending on which newspaper you read).

Merseyside, with quite a generous allocation of civil service workers, was poised to be badly hit, with dire warnings in the local press of CHAOS.

Did it come to pass? Well, the Mersey Tunnels were closed.

Photo of closed Queensway Tunnel entrance

For me it was a normal day, apart from Liverpool city centre being super-busy as strike-affected schoolchildren and their harrassed-looking parents descended for some retail therapy. As I watched the crowds in the shops, I found it hard to swallow the Government’s line that this strike was damaging to the economy.

The Sun (spit) and Daily Mail (urgh) have delighted in demonising the unions. They portray them as militant, 70s throwbacks, not living in the real world. In a masterpiece of tabloid doublespeak, they tried to portray the strike as massively disruptive to the general public, while at the same time downplaying it as a “damp squib”. The right-wing press conveniently ignored a BBC poll showing 61% of adults supported the strike. Jeremy Clarkson was definitely with the other 39%.

David Cameron meanwhile, seems to be trying to turn the term “leftwing” into an insult, similar to the way “liberal” has become a dirty word in America. The Guardian carried an interesting article on this phenomenon.

As I understand it, the government have decided that the public sector pension plan is going to be unilaterally changed, so workers will pay in more and get less at the end of it. They’re not being greedy, they’re not asking for more – they simply want to keep what they already have. Some private sector workers complained that they don’t get such a generous pension. Well, that may be true, but why should public sector workers sink to the lowest common denominator? Instead, private sector workers should be lobbying their employers for better pension provision (maybe they should form a union).

No-one should be completely immune to the effects of the financial woes we find ourselves in. But why are public sector workers being singled out when the bankers who got us into this mess are still paying themselves massive bonuses? “We’re all in this together,” after all.

My favourite quote came, as so many of my favourite quotes do these days, from Twitter:

"Parents, if it wasn't for unions, your kids wouldn't be off school today. They'd be at work."

It’s an excellent point. Rules about child labour, health and safety at work, anti-discrimination legislation and countless other laws, have all come about thanks in no small part to union intervention. If you want to go back to a country where 12-year-olds were sent down coal mines, then by all means abolish the unions, but that’s not a country I want to live in.

12th December 2007

They’re not just THE emergency services, they’re YOUR emergency services
Posted by at 7.40pm | In the News | No responses

The Police want the right to strike. Personally, I think Sting has earned quite enough money and shouldn’t be holding out for more.

Seriously though, if the police walked out on strike, it would be disastrous. Crimes would go unsolved! People would walk the streets in constant fear of being mugged! Dialling 999 would get nothing but an indifferent, slow respon… oh.

Anyway, what’s to stop the police from going on strike now? It may be against the law to strike, but who enforces the law? The Police. And what happens if the police go on strike? Do you see where I’m going with this?

Seriously, do you see? Because I’m not sure myself.

20th October 2007

A 100% complete change of topic
Posted by at 6.10pm | It's My Life | No responses

Two days after the postal strike is called off, the score is as follows:-

1 credit card statement.
1 letter from Sky saying that they’re changing (reducing) the channels I get in my package.

C’mon guys! Where’s that Family Guy DVD? If you bring it on Monday, I’ll let you come over and watch it.*

(* no I won’t)

17th October 2007

Every Cloud
Posted by at 10.31pm | It's My Life, Work | No responses

Every afternoon since Friday I’ve been despatched to Birkenhead to offload my work’s outgoing mail on the unsuspecting postmen of Wirral.

This is quite good because it’s an additional train journey each day for me, and the ticket is being paid for by someone else, which adds to the sparkle. Never has the clank of a “franked mail only” post box sounded so good.

Anyway, still waiting for those things from, so back to work, posties! Off you go now!

14th October 2007

Go Wildcats! (not the High School Musical basketball team)

To: Liverpool’s striking postal workers
From: Robert Hampton (that’s me)

I’ve been fairly blasé about your unofficial industrial action up until now, but on Friday posted a couple of preordered items to me, and I’d like to receive them this side of 2008. So go back to work.

That is all.