Archive for June, 2011

A Striking Matter

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2011 by awickerman

After Vince Cable’s subtle and well judged speech to the GMB two points spring to mind, the first general and the second very rail parochial;

1. Of course strikes are at an all time low; there are barely any trade union members left outside of the public sector. It’s at 14% of the private sector workforce and 56% of the public sector, and bear in mind for these purposes I’m fairly sure the rail industry counts as ‘private’ as part of the whole ‘Ignore Network Rails debts from the national debt total’ scam (NR is technically a private company limited by guarantee after all). And if NR are off the books I’m sure a host of other organisations are as well, if Labour left us nothing they left us lots of thoroughly cooked books.

2. If anyone is serious about implementing the McNulty Study on lowering the costs of the railways the will need those new laws. Amongst the other recommendations was one to stop the constant trend for above inflation pay raises for train staff regardless of ability or performance, which they have very successfully gained through blackmail and extortion, exploiting a monopoly position that would be illegal for a company to have, legitimate strike action;

You can't help but see this graph and be grudgingly impressed with Bob Crow

You may hate Bob Crow, but you cannot deny the ugly hypocrite is damned effective for his members.

So what was the RMT reaction to this idea that future pay rises be in proportion to average earnings and linked to efficiency improvements? Well the report came out on the 31st of May, and had been leaked fairly thoroughly before hand and the weekend before the RMT was organising a strike on the Heathrow Express saying the above inflation 4.5% pay rise linked to performance improvements was “too low” and “loaded with strings”. Ohh and demanding the same Olympic blackmail payments they’ve bullied out of the rest of the railways under threat of a summer of strikes all summer. Not exactly embracing the findings is it?

Frankly a strike law that requires at least half of the RMT to turn up to vote is the only way to stop them, given the number of dogs and dead men on the RMTs books I doubt they’ve even got enough real members to reach a 50% quorum. Besides if Bob is right and his members are all solidly behind his regular strikes then it shouldn’t be a problem, all his members have to  do is be bothered to vote for a change rather than not bother as they normally do. Then again the RMT came out against AV, probably requiring something to have the support of at least 50% of the electorate was felt to set a dangerous precedent for their own strike ballots.

But of course there is bugger all chance of this happening. For some reasons a group of rich industrialist abusing a monopoly position to gouge the population is rightly illegal, but a group of rich train drivers doing the same is a vital social democratic right. Prizes will be awarded if anyone can explain why.

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Why civil engineering is not respected

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Irregular Features, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Railways, The Underground, Tunnels with tags , , , , , , , , on June 3, 2011 by awickerman

It is a common complaint among engineers that the profession is under-valued, the conversation then normally ranges over the usual topics;  Why are photocopier repair men called engineers? Why don’t we have something like the German Engineer’s Law to protect the name engineer? Why is it that providing the power, gas and water people need is ignored while shagging ex-Big Brother contestants a matter of national concern? In truth these are not good or even original questions, but it does get the conversation going in the pub which is often the main thing.

What never get mentions is the habit of the engineering profession of doing it’s level best to repeatedly bugger up it’s own chances. Consider the ICE London Civil Engineering Awards. Look at some of these past winners;

  • 2010 – Infrastructure Award: King’s Cross St Pancras Underground Station Redevelopment – Phase 2
  • 2009 – Greatest Contribution to London Award: Heathrow Terminal 5A
  • 2008 – Special Award: Wembley Stadium

King’s Cross Phase 2 was a nightmare, this brief history barely covers half the problems but suffice to say horrifically late and well over budget cover it quite well. T5A construction (as opposed to the fit out and staff training) was in fact on time and on budget, but frankly that was irrelevant to the general public perception of the whole project wasn’t it? Nothing really needs saying on Wembley Stadium,  but for those who’ve forgotten it was several years late, over twice the original budget and that the at least one of the multiple court cases over the construction was still going earlier this year.

The pattern you should note is that for most of the population the ICE London branch goes around giving it’s best awards to late, over-priced or otherwise flawed projects. Sure from a purely technical viewpoint they were a triumph for the engineers involved (commercially not so much, particularly not Wembley which the FA got on a fixed price. Genius I tell you), but they are not calculated to make the profession look good, particularly at the showcase event of the year.

Still for those who insist the profession has a higher status I bring good news. This year’s infrastructure award went to the Boris Bikes, a scheme with all the civil engineering content of the average banana, but one that will doubtless garner many fluffy headlines and approving nods from the Guardian….. It’s enough to make a man turn to drink really.

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