National Policy Forum 2020: Work, Pensions & Equality

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ASLEF's submission to the National Policy Forum 2020 on Work, Pensions & Equality
  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. The union is encouraged to see a focus on reducing the number of job losses due to the Covid-19 crisis. While we recognise that this sort of economic contraction will, regrettably, lead to job losses, ASLEF is keen to ensure that sector-by-sector analysis is completed to understand the different types of impacts on both individuals and the industry of specific types of job losses.

  3. As the trade union that represents train drivers, ASLEF is aware that it takes a significant amount of time between the recruitment of a train driver and the point at which they can start productive work. Training for this safety-critical environment cannot be condensed or rushed as the railway must maintain its extremely high standards of safety and competence. It is therefore, very significant if jobs are lost in train driving that may in the future need to be re-recruited as the impact on the companies - and therefore the secondary impact on both passengers and railway staff - will be significant.

  4. Additionally where job roles are likely to change as a result of the crisis and of ongoing changes in society and the economy, the union would like to see Labour campaign for a significant investment in upskilling and reskilling workers.

  5. Job losses in many industries will also affect the delicate economics of public transport in the UK. The railways are already subsidised by government, though with profits leaking to the private sector in a number of ways. If the lower commuter and passenger numbers remain, there will be a need for even more public investment in the railway. ASLEF would, of course, wish to see this money invested in a way which serves the public rather than stakeholders and profiteers.

  6. The consequences of more public money being required to keep the railways running cannot be fully estimated but would be likely to lead to either a reduction in services or a loss to the public purse, or both. A reduction in services and a modal shift to private car use would set back the push for sustainable travel and public transport by several years. This situation must therefore be managed very carefully in order to balance public health and safety with the need to keep public transport operating and keep nudging people towards making ‘greener’ travel choices.

  7. With jobs being lost, the need for a proper social security safety net will of course return to the fore. ASLEF is supportive of the Labour Party’s call to increase the rate of Statutory Sick Pay in the UK. As we move out of the ‘lockdown’ period of the Covid-19 pandemic, questions about the conflict between people’s health and livelihood will continue to arise. It would be a public health disaster if people felt forced to go to work even when they were unwell, but with such low SSP provision it is understandable that people might do this. ASLEF is pleased to see that it is Labour’s policy to address this imbalance.

  8. The union also agrees with the suggestion in the policy paper that public opinion on social security may have shifted as a result of the crisis, with government support being sought by a significant number of people who have not previously had any experience of the Universal Credit or other social security systems. ASLEF agrees that Labour would be right to capitalise on this shift in opinion to seek broad agreement for reform of social security policies, including increasing SSP, scrapping and re-designing Universal Credit and increasing the amount of financial support available to people who need a safety net when they are unable to work.