Tick both boxes for your future

2022-12-01 -
Mick Whelan wearing a suit and ASLEF tie

Mick Whelan's column: December 2022

We find ourselves, despite the astounding mandates delivered universally in every train operating company, due to the vagaries of the most punitive trade union legislation in Europe, having to ballot again. Once more, it is the same topic: the complete and utter failure of the TOCs to offer a credible pay rise after three years, coupled with the morally corrupt deals these bad actors – the train companies – and the government entered into to try to obviate free collective bargaining. I reiterate: we do not work for the government, for the Department for Transport, but for Avanti, Arriva, Abellio, FirstGroup, etc…

It is imperative that we do not rest on our laurels so please ensure that you tick both boxes to give the executive committee the full tactical and strategic toolbox to best represent you and your interests and deliver a successful outcome. There will be texts, emails, and even phone calls to deliver and bolster the vote and we apologise in advance for those who think it is unnecessary but with the postal disputes going on we must maximise returns.

We are hearing more and more stories of driver managers not looking after the safety and welfare of drivers but being paid to drive trains, mainly on non-strike days, bending resources and breaking agreements. This happens during strife and will not be forgotten and, in extreme circumstances, additional ballots are being held that will lead to further action where required. It is quite clear that, in most companies, their establishment levels, even with the truncated timetables, are insufficient and they have been found out; maybe this is why the further legislation on minimum service levels seems to have gone on the back burner.

There is a massive impact to what we have done so far from the media, politicians, and pressure from business and – to the Tories’ and train companies’ complete surprise – we retain the overwhelming approval of the bulk of the general public with numerous calls for many of the train operators to be stripped of their contracts.

Some of you think we should go harder and faster. This is a Westminster-created strike, and government-financed, so it is likely to be a long haul and we have to juggle the logistics globally. We are best placed, with the overview, and input, and we have to gauge the best way forward for all our members but we do understand and admire the passion and strength of feeling on this issue.

Talks are still taking place and I will be meeting with yet another Secretary of State for Transport – Mark Harper – very soon. We want a credible resolution that is acceptable to you, our members, and please remember that any recommendable solution will go to you to vote and decide whether it is acceptable or not.

Now is the time not to be divided but to support each other. Everyone is carrying out the mandates so far. Pressure may be put on the less experienced, or individual drivers, by unscrupulous or bullying employers. So we support each other and shun division.

Our battle is not with each other but with those who want to erode our salaries and conditions to fund the profits of the privateers and to pay the dividends of the companies’ shareholders. This is ideological. And it is not just about today but about the future and your right to determine what you do and what you get paid for it. 

Each and every one of you has been staunch. Your EC, officers, company councils, LDCs, and branch secretaries have been superb. Solidarity and unity are not buzzwords but a demonstrable reality – and I also want to pay tribute to our head office staff who have truly stepped up to the mark.

Proud to be ASLEF! And please be safe…

Yours in solidarity

Mick Whelan

General Secretary