Working Conditions—Comments

Muller and rail disputes:  a comment

Feargus ORaghallaigh

There is an aspect to this story/dispute that has been left unmentioned and I wonder why.

It is that Muller is a German-owned milk processor. It is highly successful, concentrating on the consumer/value-added end of the business – short shelf-life chilled FMCG (yogurts and such things). Its big hit product was/is the ‘Muller corner’ product.

My question is this (in three parts): 

A.  Would Muller get away with/be allowed to do this in its home territory (Germany) or anywhere else in the EU?;

B.  Would it have contemplated this course and dispute if the UK was still in the EU?; and

C.  Why is this dimension not raised by the union/campaigners? 

The campaign flyer mentions Theo Muller and the Muller family and a big business. It does not contextualise the situation and the issues it poses with reference to Brexit. And nor does it put it in a domestic (British) political context, that of the Tory government’s attempt to create an anti-union climate in the country through creating and fomenting a series of very large-scale industrial disputes and strikes, again with strong Brexit smells in the air.

As for the rail disputes, there are broadly similar questions that are not being voiced as far as one can see; and there are additional questions and facts never raised (again as far as one can see). It is for example being suggested that the ‘train operating companies’ want to settle but somehow are being held back by the British government. How? What actually is the present structure of railways in Britain? On a quick and casual trawl I have found six governments involved through publicly owned rail companies in their home territories:

the Dutch government.

the German government.

the government of Hong Kong (!!!!!!) through MTR Corp;

the Italian government.

the British government itself (through DOHL); and

the Scottish government (ScotRail and the only territory/market not in dispute) 

the French government.  Keolis is the SNCF front in the UK.

There is another twist to it all: the train companies (the TOCs) do not actually own their trains – the engines and carriages. They are owned by financial institutions through rolling stock companies known as ROSCOs. The rolling stock is leased to the TOCs.

Somehow the government has managed to insert itself as a negotiating spoiler in the bargaining (I suspect through its ownership of Network Rail and DOHL). Lynch, Whelan and others are playing a blinder with their strikes and on the popular front but to my mind the populace have not really got an understanding of the (mind-bendingly lunatic) current collapsed-structure of the system – and are not being given any such understanding (not least by the Labour Party).

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