A public argument

I think that ASLEF were perfectly reasonable in calling for a strike in order to get a proper reward for giving up their Boxing Day in order to run the London Tube service. Who wants to be away from their families over Christmas time? The Rail Authorities were being mean and confrontational.

Nonsense, ASLEF were actually demanding triple pay and a free day in lieu. That was sheer greed in action.

 On the contrary. The Church’s social teaching is quite clear about the right for collective action through the trades unions. Strikes are “morally legitimate when it cannot be avoided, or at least when it is necessary to obtain a proportionate benefit”. That’s what was happening here.

You mean that even if they were demanding quintuple pay and three days in lieu, the strike would be legitimate?

Now you’re being absurd. They were going for a proportionate benefit. And a proportionate benefit is what they were after.

What you really mean is that they were going for the largest amount they thought that their power could get. And, incidentally, another condition for a strike is that it is not against the common good. And the strike certainly breached that.

That was the sort of argument the employers always used in the bad old days when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. It’s certainly for the common good that the working man should have and use his collective strength to defend himself against the capitalists.

Well, the tube drivers are not the poor any longer. Their average pay, even before the promised rises, is £45,000, while the average full time worker gets £26,000.

And deservedly so. Would you feel happier if your tube driver was underpaid for such an important and skilled job? People’s lives are in their hands at every moment.

Tosh! Anyone who can drive a car safely can learn to drive a tube train. The drivers are being paid for at the expense of people who are much worse off than them. Why should the tube drivers be exempt? And think of the harm  done to the recovery by damaging just those kinds of sales which could get the economy moving. And of course the weapon they’re using is the inconvenience of the general public. It’s a kind of blackmail. Make enough people miserable and they’ll force the Authorities to act. And they’ve got three other dates already planned to magnify their threat.

On the contrary. Their fight is with the Railway Authorities. The inconvenience to travellers is simply a side effect. And any moral theologian will tell you that the law of “double effect” allows you to accept a secondary side effect which results from a legitimate action like a strike.

 Ah, but it has to be proportionate. And, in any case, the travellers’ inconvenience only looks like a secondary effect. But in reality it’s the major weapon. The union can claim that it’s sorry for the travellers but that’s just crocodile tears to make themselves feel good, and head off public opinion from turning against them.

 I can see that you’re going to twist the argument every which way to prove that ASLEF protection of workers’ rights is in the wrong.

I can see that you’re going to twist the argument every which way to prove that ASLEF’s uncaring greed is in the right.

Quentin asks: what do you think?

Useful references:

Catechism 2426 ff, especially 2435

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church


Paras 304 to 307

Today’s Reading from 1 John. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the dark.”

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Church and Society, Moral judgment, Quentin queries. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A public argument

  1. momangelica says:

    I find it interesting that during the 14 years of Labour in government I do not think we had one strike, so I’m not convinced there are real hardships going on for a genuine strike.
    Most British citizens have indoor toilets, hot running water taken as read which my own mother aged now 84 did not have at her childhood home as likewise all her neighbours.
    Disruption is a hallmark of the Enemy of Man, we need to remind ourselves that he will never go away and has many willing helpers.
    Many more prayers of course. I like what was written recently in a church newsletter; Lucia, the visionary of Fatima, said that Our Lady told her ” In the Rosary contains a remedy that she herself has placed inside which will resove all problems, Listen! I said all, all problems”.
    How comforting is that and how illuminating that we must have an active enemy for Her to be in battle and sending us weapons. We fight but not in fear!

  2. Geordie says:

    I agree with momangelica. The transport unions don’t like a Conservative (Coalition) government and seem to be spoiling for a fight whatever is offered to them. They were given a good deal with regard to the Olympics, so they immediately switched to Boxing day. If they win this one it will be interesting to see where they pick their next fight.

  3. Iona says:

    What do you mean, non-Italic-writer, “the bad old days when the rich got richer and the poor got poorer”? – Those days are now. The gap between highest-paid and lowest-paid has been growing for years, and is now immense.

  4. Iona says:

    My brother works for BT. I asked him what BT employees get paid, for working unsocial days such as Boxing Day. Double time, he said. I told him the Underground drivers were striking for triple time and a day off in lieu. He was astonished.

  5. tim says:

    “Oh it is wonderful
    To have a giant’s strength – but tyrannous
    To use it like a giant”

  6. Ion Zone says:

    I’m not sure. On one hand it was a very pointed thing to call a strike at this time of the year. On the other hand, if they don’t pose a serious threat they won’t be taken seriously. They could have been a lot more serious with this and have used their knowledge of the most busy days to take down the tube on the most busy days just before Christmas. As it is (from what I gather) most of the people inconvenienced were shoppers, football fans, and people going home on Boxing day. The next strikes are tentatively scheduled for January\February. Also, strikers always aim to get more than they actually think is feasible, this is the how haggling works. Triple pay on boxing day isn’t that unreasonable when you consider that what they really want is overtime pay plus a bit extra.

    All in all, from what I have seen, this seems reasonable enough.

  7. st.joseph says:

    I dont know if the retail shop employees were given extra pay for working Boxing Day.
    My two grandsons who have worked in retail shops since 16 on weekends. One at Uni and the other waiting to go, this year he has his place but postponed it until this year and is working full time until then.The eldest who leaves this year has always worked through holidays.
    They are both quire happy with the £5 or so basic wage.
    They both spent their time with the family Christmas and Boxing day the few hours they had off and worked And onNew Years Day.
    I know it is different for the Tube Trains but they ought to be thankful they have a job.
    They do that job knowing they are at the service of the public and do have a duty to provide that, surely that is in their employment responsibility when they choose to do it.
    Hospital workers have to and soldiers etc, and they should be thankful they are not fighting a war. They dont have time with their families, fighting for the safety of others.
    God help us all if we had another war in this country. I remember washing my teeth with soot and salt.And not many toys if any either And the house next door in London getting bombed and affecting ours so we had to move.
    I have no sympathy- sorry to say. Only for those without a job-who are made redundant.

  8. Rahner says:

    ASLEF are only doing what lots of people do in capitalism – exploit their position for their own benefit. And there are far worse examples than ASLEF…..

  9. Nektarios says:


    As long as we psychologically need and use each her each other, there can be no relationship.
    Relationship is communion; and how can there be communion if there is exploitation? Exploitation implies fear and fear leads to all sorts of illusions and misery.
    Conflict exists only in exploitation and not in relationship.
    Conflict, opposition, emnity, exists between us when there is the use of another as a means of pleasure or achievement.
    Such exploitation is in every area of living, so much so we have turned the joy of living into a problem.

  10. John Nolan says:

    You can’t get to London by train on Boxing Day anyway, since none are running, so why not close down London Transport for the day, remove all traffic and parking restrictions, and encourage people to use their cars?

  11. mike Horsnall says:


  12. Iona says:

    Mike – my son was commuting by bike in London, but he’s had it stolen.

  13. mike Horsnall says:

    Ah well he’ll just have to turn the other chain!
    (Sorry Iona that really was very poor I know..)

  14. Iona says:

    Mike – maybe it was stolen by someone from London Transport, to increase income by forcing a cyclist onto the buses and underground.

    (Joke. In case anyone was wondering. Not a very good one)

    It was a very good bike, which was no doubt why it was stolen. It was his pride and joy. Really too good to use for commuting.

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