This article is reprinted from the June 1997 issue of 'Off The Rails', a rank-and-file bulletin produced by Workers' Libety and others which will shortly be re-launched.
'Fat Controller' was a regular feature of 'Off The Rails', casting a satirical eye at the antics of the rail employers. It was written by Rob Dawber, a long-standing Workers' Liberty member and RMT activist, who died in 2001 from mesothelioma caused by expsoure to asbestos while working in the railway industry.
Fat Controller here!
Good to speak with you again.
There have been some changes since we last spoke. One is that the whole of the railway system has now been privatised just as Mr Major promised before the election. The other is that despite Mr Major keeping his word (for example putting fuddy duddy old British Rail out into the private sector so that it could become shiny, thrusting, entrepreneurial and new), the electorate did not let him keep his job. Instead they put Mr Blair in.
Not so sure about him. After all, even with the 'New' part, it is still a Labour Party! However, some of my friends in the City have spoken with him and consider that things may not be so bad after all. Consider for example that he did say during the election campaign that he would not favour the renationalisation of British Rail and one of his first guests round to 10 Downing Street was dear old Mrs Thatcher! So maybe he is a man we can all feel comfortable with. We shall see.
Now there have been a couple of issues that seem to have leaked out to the press that do seem to make the privatised railway system look not quite as good as we all know it is. After all, we know that it has been an unparalleled success. But these rentamob left-wing ranters in the media are intent on putting us is a bad light. They try and whip up hostility around every bit of news coming out of the railway industry, trying to make good news look bad.
Take the case of my good friends running Prism Rail. Now quite rights they have taken the positive step of informing the workforce that careless talk costs jobs. Share prices are affected by what is heard about a company. Therefore it does not help to have anyone, especially someone who knows the situation well like an employee, talking about the work of the company. They might feel in a mood to talk about derailments, signalling failures, faulty wiring or anything else that might make a company look bad. Now of course, no company can afford to send all their employees on a Public Relations course so they have only one choice. That is, they have to tell the employees that they must "Never discuss business on the train, say nothing in front of the family", otherwise "civil and criminal penalties" could follow. This is only good business practice.
It is not difficult to see therefore why it is necessary to gag workers in our free and democratic society, especially in a situation where the free market has moved in.
The other issue is Railtrack's profits. Railtrack has announced record profits of £340 million. But according to the ranting rentamob you would think that they had done something wrong! Let me put the record straight. Profits are a good thing! Increasing profits are an even better thing! And record profits are the best of all!! Profits prove that a company is doing well. But all the left-wing ranting rentamob can talk about is deteriorating track, a record number of speed restrictions, more buckled rail than ever, signalling failures, and passenger complaints at an all-time high. Plus they point out that Railtrack's profits come out of public subsidy. Or even that it is costing twice as much public subsidy to run the railways as it did under British Rail!
Moaning minnies! They ought to get proper jobs. In fact they ought to get jobs with Prism Rail. Then we could teach them a thing or two about talking to their families or friends or anybody else about the railway.
(Now there's an idea. I'll have to have a word with Mr Blair about that.)
That's all for now. Toodle Pip!