RMT's Mick Lynch is showing us how to stand up to workplace bullying (something I know a bit about as a former Edinburgh councillor) – Eleanor Bird
The new man the establishment loves to hate has taken our screens by storm but has stressed that he’s simply the leader of a democratic strike, not a Dracula-style villain that rips the heads off baby animals for sport.
Mick Lynch is a trade unionist, and it seems we’ve become woefully unfamiliar with them in recent years.
As the child of trade unionist activists, some of my earliest memories are sitting on my parents’ shoulders at marches (I have the badge collection to prove it). Fast-forward 30 years and as a society we seem somewhat lost in our understanding of what it is to fight for better jobs, pay and conditions.
In the face of now 12 years of Tory austerity and a reckless, race-to-the-bottom Brexit, that has only exacerbated UK inflation, who now represents workers’ rights in Westminster?
You’d think the clue was in the title, but one Labour source claimed their party wouldn’t explicitly support the strikers as it was on the side of the public. The first person to figure out what that means wins a teddy bear – but not the right to participate in democratic industrial action.
Anti-trade union rhetoric of this kind must be challenged, and solidarity shown with all those that work on our railways and are, last time I checked, members of the public themselves.
Nicola Sturgeon urged Boris Johnson’s government to come to the table in a spirit of cooperation and respect for workers, just as the Scottish Government did a few short weeks ago.
Conversely, UK ministers inflamed the issue with the suggestion of replacing strikers with agency staff – a proposal requiring a change in the law but when has that ever stopped them?
Of course, the behaviour we’re witnessing towards Lynch and his colleagues is just good, old-fashioned bullying. There is no legal definition of bullying and, as such, it isn’t considered a crime, but it is endemic, insidious, corrosive, and far too often goes unchallenged.
As a former city councillor, I have some insight into the subtleties of workplace bullying, which has in turn given me the benefit of some sure-fire ways to combat it – be relentlessly yourself and stick to your principles at all times. Both are kryptonite to bullies.
I’m often reminded of the Bridget Jones dictum “I will not be defeated by a bad man”, a principle I seem to share with the RMT. As we know, the rumour that Labour’s Keir Starmer was the inspiration for Bridget’s Mark Darcy has now been dispelled as myth – even if the one that he discouraged his own MPs from attending pickets with threats of disciplinary action has not.
There doesn’t seem to be much love lost between Starmer and the unions that founded his party and gave it its name, so you’re unlikely to find him bingeing interviews with the RMT leader anytime soon. Maybe better to look for him in the same corner the country’s cowering press is hiding in instead.