“Unfortunately, the days of a job for life are gone.”
In The Navigators, director Ken Loach explores the collapse and privatization of British Rail through the personal lives of a handful of workers.It’s Britain in 1995, and the workers at a British Rail station in South Yorkshire are informed that British Rail is dead and gone, and that they now work for East Midlands Infrastructure. A manager tells the men that work is no longer guaranteed, but instead the company must compete to “win contracts.” Apparently, “just doing the job is not good enough.” Some of the workers decide to take a lump sum severance pay and retire. Other workers decide to stay on imagining that sticking with the new company will guarantee security. Most of the men have spent their entire working lives employed by British Rail, and they can’t imagine doing anything else. Plus the fact that there’s a different name on the sign doesn’t really mean that much to them. As far as they are concerned, life goes on as usual.
The British railway system was nationalized in 1948, but privatized in stages during the years 1994-1997. This privatization occurred during the conservative government of John Majors, and it was just a continuation of Thatcher’s privatization of publicly owned utilities. And lest you imagine that privatization of the rail system stopped government subsidies (i.e. the privatized system is more efficient, blah blah) think again. Before privatization, subsidies to British Rail were around 1 billion pounds a year. After privatization, it was thought that 1.8 billion pounds a year would cover it (with this amount to decline 2-3 million pounds a year). In 2006, the total subsidy to the private companies that now run the former British Rail reached 6.3 BILLION POUNDS. Will the Royal Mail be next?