Vote 'Yes' - we will not stand for years of pay cuts

2022-06-01 -
Array, ASLEF
Mick Whelan wearing a suit and ASLEF tie

Mick Whelan's Column - June 2022


We continually visit branches, testing what we are doing, to avoid accusations of an ivory tower mentality or of being London-centric. Naturally, in a fractionalised industry, with the continual carving up of the franchise map, 'one size fits all' policies are difficult to deliver but aspiration cannot - and should not - be tempered but encouraged.

Our annual assembly of delegates - where we hand the union over to the membership to criticise, analyse and develop the policies we work to - has just taken place and we come away invigorated, recharged, and more determined that, after keeping the country going during the pandemic, to be rewarded with years of pay cuts and talk of 'modernisation' is not what you want or will stand for!

Any company which blames the cuts caused by reduced footfall or its institutional failures will, if any driver is verbally abused or physically attacked, come under legal and industrial sanction and will have to demonstrate it cannot happen again under their duty of care and fiduciary responsibility under health & safety legislation, especially as we are classified as lone workers.

As for the Scottish and Westminster governments and their 'politics of envy' attacks the same applies - we will not engage in a race to the bottom but are happy for all the workers they compare us with to have what we have tomorrow. Let's hope they have the courage of our convictions! No one has ever given us anything. We sold flexibility and productivity for everything we have and the privateers have made millions of pounds since privatisation.

If they want 'modernisation' let's have safe trains, and modern infrastructure, through investment, along with electrification and decarbonisation, and an integrated transport system that has public transport and freight at its core. If they want 'modernisation' let's have a reduced driver's age and statutory hours legislation for drivers with all your time on duty included in aggregate driving time - as it is for lorry drivers. Let's have the crown guarantee - implied at the time of privatisation - for our pension schemes. Let's have proper finance for TfL, with modern legislation for financial support, rather than the Tories' disgusting political games gambling wit the futures of passengers and staff and damaging the economy.

If they want 'modernisation' let's have equalities impact assessments on every government rail contract so we reflect the society we live in. Let's have legislation that reflects the effects of shift work reflected in a realistic state retirement ages for all, not just the railways. Please can we have the full figures of the savigs made on salaries and the deferred wages of rail workers and the full breakdown of all the bonuses, share options, and monetary gains of directors and senior managers - as we are entitled to for bargaining purposes. These are not an exhaustive list of what 'modernisation' should include but they are a start... 

And, while we're at it, let's nail a few lies. The rail industry was not given a subsidy or bailout as LNER claims. It is under Directly Operated Rail. All the monies put into the industry - which we welcomed - were the cost of running the railways during the pandemic. The unsustainable private franchise model was already collapsing and had to be changed, according to Grant Shapps, hence the creation of GBR. Other countries, such as Eire and Germany, are slashing fares to get footfall back but we are cutting services and raising fares. So are the workers to pay for such incompetence whilst Boris Johnson says he is going 'to keep the best of privatisation'? Well, giving productivity whilst the privateers put nothing in is not going to recover our industry or protect our futures. Only we can do that.

Please, if you are being balloted, vote 'Yes' so our voice will be heard in the corridors of power and throughout the rail industry. Solidarity and unity are concepts they do not understand. But we do, and they will learn.

Please be safe

Mick Whelan

General Secretary