LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson has branded him as a “union baron”, but union leader Mick Lynch, who is planning the biggest railway strike in Britain in three decades, has emerged from a halt of work that has left millions of people dead. plans have been disrupted as one. Unexpected media sensation.
Mr Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, has used a series of belligerent television interviews to build up public support for the RMT, despite the fact that its striking workers have left Britain for three days. Most of the trains were stopped. Last week.
When “Good Morning Britain” host Richard Madley asked him if he was a Marxist, Mr. Lynch retorted, “Richard, you sometimes come with the most remarkable twaddle,” before rapidly exclaiming that Emphasize what he insisted on. The strike was about: better working conditions, higher pay and avoidance of layoffs.
His success has also puzzled some of his union colleagues, who were preparing themselves for much public backlash for their fight for a “Square Deal” at a time of massive inflation and wage stagnation.
This does not mean that Mr Lynch, 60, who took charge of the union in May 2021, has not been the subject of hostile headlines in London newspapers. It also doesn’t mean that public opinion won’t be against railway workers, especially if the strikes go on in the summer. Polls vary widely on public attitudes towards strikes, suggesting that many have not yet made up their minds.
“We know it’s going to be a tough gig, this conversation,” Mr Lynch said in an interview last week in the exposed-brick boardroom of Unity House, RMT’s London headquarters. “It’s not right from our point of view or anyone else’s point of view.”
But he adds, “We must have something that reflects the true cost of living.”
Mr Lynch accused train operators of attempting to cut wages instead of making a fair deal. “Not only against inflation,” he said, “relatively not against the cost of living – but actually reducing wages, and increasing the work week from 35 hours to 40. One can see that this tradeoff There is a big attack on the union.”
Social media has helped in his work. Clips of Mr Lynch’s feud with interviewers have been widely circulated. “Until this week I didn’t know what ‘trending’ was,” Mr Lynch told the crowd at a recent rally outside King’s Cross station, “I think it’s a good thing.” People ran to take photos with him.
But does all this visibility risk a backlash?
“Mick Lynch being an effective speaker is a great advantage and a great support for the controversy,” said Gregor Gall, visiting professor of industrial relations at the University of Leeds. “But in itself, it’s not going to win the controversy.”
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“It is possible that public opinion may turn against Mick Lynch if people feel that their travel plans are being disrupted on a long-term basis,” Professor Gall said. “I think he’s in the honeymoon phase at the moment.”
Some critics argue that compared to the national average for salaries, railway workers are paid quite well. Mr Johnson’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps dismissed the attacks as a stunt. Others have accused Mr Lynch of using the strikes to protect “ancient work practices” such as a ban on maintenance workers in one area helping out in another.
Sangh leaders are used to such allegations. Like Bob Crowe, his most prominent predecessor in RMT, Mr. Lynch plays a firebrand. But compared to Mr. Crow, who went on a beach vacation in Brazil on the eve of the disruptive rail attacks in 2014, Mr. Lynch is seen as a more unified force, helping him secure a deal for his members. can help to.
Born in 1962 to a working-class Irish family in Paddington, west London, Mr Lynch was one of five children in what he described as a “rent room” in what would now be called a slum. After leaving school at the age of 16, he worked first as an electrician, and then in construction before being illegally blacklisted for joining a union.
Mr Lynch took a job in 1993 with Eurostar, operator of high-speed trains that passed under the English Channel, and became a card-carrying member of the RMT.
“Mick is from a different generation,” said union president Alex Gordon. “He’s been around for 40 years as a trade unionist, as an activist, since the 1980s, and you gain a lot of experience. He’s an exceptionally smart and perceptive person.”
In some ways, the strike time is good for the union. Mr Johnson’s approval rating is at its lowest level since he became prime minister, with revelations of illegal parties on Downing Street as the coronavirus lockdown heightened a growing public disdain for the government.
“In the eyes of many, he is the most effective critic of the government at the moment,” Professor Gall said of Mr Lynch.
The strike has also put the opposition Labor Party in an awkward position. The party has deep emotional and financial ties with UK unions – some, although not the RMT, even have voting rights in its internal elections – but also have a deep fear of being controlled by them.
Labor leader Keir Starmer has discouraged its members from going over picket lines, a decision mocked by Diane Abbott, a labor lawmaker in London’s Hackney district, who recently spoke at an RMT rally on Saturday.
“I don’t understand the argument that Labor MPs shouldn’t be there because we shouldn’t choose a side,” Ms Abbott said. “I thought you had chosen a side when you joined the Labor Party.”
Without appealing to individual voting blocs, Mr. Lynch can push a simple message. Allies say this makes him an authentic champion of the working class at a time when politicians are increasingly disconnected from reality.
Rhys Harmer, 28, a former RMT youth president, and a railroad worker, said he and his colleagues saw videos of Mr Lynch, “blatantly lying about our union, our workplaces and what is happening to us”. breaking people. It’s refreshing for many of our members.”
Those who have no connection with the Sangh have also been shifted.
“He has no long-term ambitions in terms of winning over people in the media, and he can only speak truth to power,” said Fabienne Cam, a 36-year-old charity worker who was on a bus to attend the King’s meeting. Traveled for hours. Cross Rally.
Since the strike, the RMT said its membership has increased by over a thousand.
For many, it is a departure from previous attacks, in which frustrated travelers clashed with picketers and the British press described union leaders as disruptive. Though the papers have covered those deprived of medical appointments due to the strike, it has so far done little to tarnish the image of the union.
“We will eventually make a deal with them,” Mr. Lynch said of his talks with railroad companies. “There’s more than one way to build value into the package – it doesn’t have to be all about the salary. So we’ll see what we can do.”