CROYDON COMMENTARY: Veteran Labour councillor for Upper Norwood, PAT RYAN, pictured left, was disappointed to see a local Tory activist being abusive to trade unionists on social media. Here, he calls on Andrew Stevensen and his party to do the decent thing
I worked as a professional BT engineer for decades. This nationalised utility was a well-run, efficient, cost-effective operation. I served a convenor for many of those years, working to establish industrial harmony and value for money for residents in the area who used BT.
Serving our communities was our No1 priority; however, in order to deliver a high level of service, you needed to have the staff to do it. Finding the right staff is very difficult and when you do, you have to keep them.
No trade unionist wants to strike – let me make that very clear. It is an absolute last resort. This is not new and it has been happening for centuries in organisations where organised labour has collectively fought to improve the terms and conditions for workers. It is vital that the right to strike remains on the bargaining table.
Industrial action has won working people many rights over the years. Without it we would never have Bank Holidays, weekends, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay or employers contributing towards pensions.
And regardless of your political views, a decent civilised society should celebrate and build on these achievements. If Peter Bottomley and Iain Duncan Smith can be members of the Unite trade union, and despite their disagreements with the union support working people, so should Croydon Conservatives.
It surprised me to see a young Conservative, Andrew Stevensen, referring to the RMT and ASLEF trade union members as “scumbags”.
Some may call this “locker room talk”, but I believe it is very strong, abusive and rather hateful word. Andrew clearly feels strongly about the strikes, but he went too far. Working people who are fighting for a better future for the next generation do not deserve to be called scumbags. I raised this with Croydon Tories on Twitter and they have refused to condemn Stevensen, implying that they agree with him.
Rather naively, I expected Mr Stevensen, the son of a Filippino nurse, to reflect on his tweet and express a different attitude. No such luck. Instead, I received a lot of nasty bile back from him. It worries me that hate, anger and bitterness motivates many Conservative activists today.
It does confirm to me that the nasty party is alive and well and active here in Croydon.
I will give credit to Steve O’Connell who tweeted that he was “proud” to be a union member when he worked for a bank and that he would challenge any daft comments. He hasn’t challenged Stevensen, yet, but I guess that Croydon Tories are somewhat embarrassed by Stevensen, who has proved to the loose cannon.
I know that Stevensen will read this and my message to him is this: we all occasionally tweet something we probably ought to reflect on. Andrew, this was exactly one of those occasions. But rather than lob a few petty missiles that you think will impress your fellow Tories, think about what the Conservative Government, that you support, could do to end these strikes – with the strike of a pen!
Sadly, your Transport Minister appears, like you, to have no real regard for Croydon commuters and he would rather play politics with people’s lives.
We will not let you forget this, Andrew. Be warned. These comments will follow you around all the time and will come back to bite you.
So, do the decent thing now, and apologise.
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