Trade unions are supposed to level the playing field for workers. But it’s something else that happens with unions in monopoly services provided by government. They engage in what is very close to extortion. Government doctors in Sri Lanka go on strike, harming innocent patients, demanding and getting privileged access to popular schools for their children and duty exemptions for the cars they buy. Railway workers demand salary increases even when the losses exceed total revenues.
I had thought there was no solution other than prohibition of strikes and compulsory arbitration. But it appears that apps that make ride sharing possible are reducing the extortionary power of railway unions.
This time, it is the support for the government that has increased, from 51% on the eve of the first day of strikes to 64% today. The reform is seen as legitimate. The strikes have been inconvenient, and occasionally exasperating, but not crippling. New technology, from apps to organised ride-sharing to the SNCF’s live updated train schedules, has helped commuters cope. With worries about loss of pay and lack of impact, even the cheminots seem to have lost faith. The share of train drivers on strike has fallen from 77% to just over half. The overall share of railway workers taking part in the strikes has dropped from 34% to just 14%.