James O'Brien ties in knots caller who claims 'we don't need trade unions'

22 June 2022, 15:37

By Fiona Jones

This caller was swiftly challenged after telling James O'Brien that "we don't need" trade unions in Britain - and instead workers should represent themselves "individually".

The conversation was sparked as Rail, Maritime and Transport union's largest industrial action in a generation continues to cause ongoing travel disruption in Britain.

Caller Adam from Heathrow told James that he champions the individual "representing themselves" instead of having a society where trade unions fight to protect workers' rights.

James questioned: "Employer says we're abolishing weekends, who represents the worker then?"

The caller insisted that "no one's doing that", to which James responded, "I hate to break it to you but until the trade unions existed, two day weekends were unheard of."

He continued to ask Adam about other conditions in this scenario, such as 16 hour working days, where "no one else should be able to take industrial action to support" someone if they were overworked and maltreated.

Read more: Tube and train strikes 2022: What are the rail strike dates for June and July?

James continued: "Retirement ages?...Maternity leave?...Health and safety in the workplace? How many employers in the workplace look around and think 'Gosh, how can we spend more money looking after our workforce', as opposed to waiting for trade union-led legislation to be brought in that prevents them from being electrocuted or injured at work?"

"Paid holidays?...Who's gonna get that for the bloke who's only allowed to represent himself?"

When Adam insisted you could "negotiate that yourself", James pointed out that could mean one person gets a paid holiday and another does not, which Adam conceded he did not agree with.

James made a further point that equality laws could not exist if rights were based person by person, like being fired for being pregnant, or being fired for being sick and being too ill to "represent yourself."

After continuing to postulate scenarios that could occur if trade unions were not in place, with little in the way of answers, James concluded: "Do you know where you'd be happy? 1852."

Strikes continue on the UK's rail network on Thursday and Saturday, with knock-on disruption caused by absent staff likely to affect travel on days without industrial action.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), said that unions were not looking to compromise after negotiations with rail bosses failed to make progress.

Read more: Don't rise to Tory bait, the rail strikes are their fault, Alistair Darling tells Labour

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