The national rail strike, which mobilized 40,000 railway workers at the end of June and resumed at the end of last week, now has the face of a 60-year-old bald man who never loses his composure, shows a perpetual smile and occasionally raises his right eyebrow with circumflex accent: Michael Lynch, head of the main English railway union RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport).
In Britain, worst strikes for decades protest 10% inflation
Completely unknown yesterday, the man has in a few weeks become the hero of the railway workers in the Network Railway, who are fighting for a significant wage increase and against the projects for cuts and productivity increases. He is also the figurehead of the protests against inflation exceeding 10% eating away at the purchasing power of all modest English people.
The sequel after the ad
with humor British and self-mockery Mick posts on his Facebook profile the puppet The Hood: the supervillain of the children’s series “Thunderbirds”, whose baldness and aquiline nose he shares. The union leader strings TV appearances together and takes malicious pleasure in thumbing journalists’ noses – “Honestly, is that the level of your interviews? – than conservative politicians. He called the Minister for the Digital Economy a liar fifteen times in two minutes!
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The son of Irish immigrant parents, Michael Lynch grew up with four siblings in a Catholic suburb of west London, in “rented rooms which today would be called slums”, he confided to “Vägten”. Trained as an electrician, the young man left school at 16 to work in construction.
After being one of those refused jobs because they were unionized, twenty years later he received a compensation check for £35,000 which was posted in his office. In 1993 he joined Eurostar, where he founded a branch of the RMT union, of which he became deputy general secretary in 2015, then, in May 2021, boss. Married to a nurse in the public health system, he is the father of three children.
6. Fan club
Unlike the “winter of discontent” of 1978-1979, which made Margaret Thatcher’s bed, the current national strike, the first in thirty years, has so far been supported by the English. Mick Lynch has thus become the darling of the social networks, while his followers are eclectic, from Hugh Laurie, the hero of the series “Dr House”, to political leaders (including among the Tories) who celebrate his media talent.
The sequel after the ad
Clever, the unionist decries the failure to negotiate on Network Rail, which would be hostage to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s succession war. The two Conservative candidates for 10 Downing Street, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, are bidding to win on September 5. As for the Labor leaders, they are keeping a low profile as they consider it risky to support the picket lines.
“Boris Johnson’s handling of the truth has undermined Britain’s democratic institutions”
The pandemic and remote working have torpedoed the number of travelers and British rail is running a chronic deficit of around £2 billion. Hence these social negotiations, which are more tense than ever. For Lynch, it is not up to the railway workers, on the front lines of the crisis, to pay for the broken pots. Especially since “Covid is a smokescreen to permanently change people’s working conditions”.
The union leader claims to be neither Marxist nor revolutionary: “All I want in life is a little socialism”, he says. He is close to former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, with whom he shares the anti-European sentiments of an early Brexiter… as well as some understanding of Putin’s theses about the war in Ukraine.
10. Oil stain
Beyond the railways, Mick Lynch embodies the revival of the British social movement, which also affects air and sea transport, health, the post office and schools… Britain could be paralyzed by a wave of strikes affecting “all sectors of the economy”, he promises.