National Policy Forum 2020: Economy, Business and Trade

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ASLEF's submission to the National Policy Forum 2020 on Economy, Business and Trade
  1. The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) is the UK’s largest train drivers’ union, representing over 20,000 members in train operating companies and freight companies as well as London Underground and light rail systems, and, as one of the Labour Party’s founding unions, has been affiliated to the Party since its creation.

  2. As the policy paper highlights, the impact of Covid-19 on the UK’s economy will be huge, and it is likely that the impact will be felt most by those least able to bear it. ASLEF is therefore strongly in favour of any proposals which aim to mitigate the impact on those communities still recovering from the 2007 financial crash and the following decade of Tory austerity.

  3. This crisis has highlighted what we already knew to be true: that a fragmented economy, totally vulnerable to the market, with weakened employment protections and thousands of exploited workers living on the breadline is completely unable to weather an economic storm. While the government’s hastily-created package of support will have helped some businesses, and some workers, in the short term, the lasting impacts of this crisis will be felt by people and communities for a long time to come.

  4. Labour’s policy for workers should be to simplify the current over-complicated infrastructure of types of workers, which allows unscrupulous employers to use loopholes to force workers onto contracts which push them out of scope for government support, or make them self employed (therefore without any employment benefits or protections) when they are performing a role that should be an employed job. Simplifying the categories of worker and ensuring that all workers have a robust employment contract, the ability to organise collectively through a union and rights to employment and workplace protections is essential.

  5. With the OBR suggestion production is down in construction and manufacturing, along with continued uncertainty about the viability of international supply chains resuming their usual flows, there is a lot of uncertainty in a number of industries. ASLEF represents train drivers in the rail freight sector. As rail freight operating companies (FOCs) are completely privatised they are entirely vulnerable to the market, and with them hundreds of jobs. Rail freight movements have to be timetabled nationally and planned a long time in advance, so certainty of future movements of freight, timetabling and flows is essential to keep these businesses viable.

  6. In addition to employing a large number of people, rail freight is a very sustainable and environmentally friendly way to transport items ranging from supermarket stock to construction materials to waste. Rail freight is also able to deliver cargoes right to the centre of cities and towns with much less environmental impact than the equivalent road freight journeys. It is for this reason that ASLEF would like to see Labour commit to a strategy to promote the use of rail freight as part of a fully-integrated system, with easy interchange between maritime, air, rail and road for last-mile deliveries.

  7. When economic recovery programmes are being considered, wellbeing and environmental sustainability must be front and centre along with financial considerations in every decision.

  8. As the country returns to work and leisure, the union agrees that the Labour Party and trade unionists should be at the forefront of ensuring that lockdown restrictions are lifted in a way that affords the maximum possible protection and safety to workers. There have been far too many stories throughout this crisis of workers who have become unwell and died from Covid-19 as a result of weak health and safety procedures in their workplaces. This must not continue.

  9. Businesses which have received public money to help them weather the crisis should continue to be held to high standards in terms of workplace rights, recognising unions for collective bargaining and on environmental sustainability. It is not acceptable for businesses which have been supported by public money to use it to treat workers unfairly.

  10. The union would also like to see proposals to recognise and reward local, diverse and environmentally sustainable businesses that do work with communities, treat workers well and operate responsibly. For example, this could mean prioritising this type of business and organisation when considering procurement opportunities or funding and investment from public money.

  11. The Labour Party and the trade union movement must continue to be at the forefront of a push for the new normal where fair work, community engagement and environmental sustainability are the standard.