ASLEF in conference at Nottingham

02 June 2008

These are some of the main items from the first day of the ASLEF conference (AAD) which is being held in Nottingham this week.

 

Alan Donnelly – ASLEF president - at conference

 

Alan Donnelly, the President of ASLEF, has a number of important messages for delegates gathered in Nottingham for the union’s annual conference (AAD).

 

Firstly he expressed his satisfaction that the union’s finances had turned dramatically for the better, a situation, he said, that enabled ASLEF to have ‘a fresh and more positive outlook’ and increased its ability to ‘concentrate on the membership and the campaigns and activities that are important to them’. The union’s independence, which is ‘vital to the best representation of train drivers’ is assured, Alan added.

 

‘There is only one trade union for train drivers and that is ASLEF.’

 

Alan spoke about the union’s achievements industrially and in campaigning terms. He spoke of disputes that had been settled to the members’ satisfaction in a number of companies and was especially pleased to report recognition agreements in Serco and Croydon Tramlink. ‘Manchester Metro is next!’ he resolved.

 

Alan reviewed certain central union campaigns – including the use of rail for freight, Specially Monitored Drivers’ policy and free staff travel. The Squash campaign for improved train cabs, he said, was being discussed in every company in the land and now at ministerial level.

 

But Alan was in no doubt that the most pressing issue for ASLEF members was that of pensions. ‘We set out with five points of principle and we will stick to them,’ he declared. He said that research had shown that the introduction of ‘career average’ pensions could cost train drivers a quarter of their benefit provisions.

 

‘We will not give up our final salary scheme for the simple reason that we have already paid for it,’ Alan said.

 

Local MP Alan Simpson says petrol reliance is folly

 

Alan Simpson, the MP for Nottingham where ASLEF is holding its annual conference, spelled out the ‘utter folly’ of an economy that is dependent on petroleum.

 

‘Three weeks ago the oil producing countries through OPEC said that even if the price of oil rose to 200 dollars a barrel, that may not be enough. It’s a coded way of saying it will rise to this. In fact, it could be 300 dollars a barrel by the end of next year.’

 

The reason is that 90% of oil producers had passed their peak oil production. ‘From slipping from peak production to becoming an oil importer has been shown to take six years,’ Alan declared. ‘And when petrol prices go through the roof it will affect your supermarket as well as your motor car.’

 

It was now incontestable, he said, that the rail infrastructure would re-emerge as the most coherent and viable way of moving both people and goods around.

 

The danger, he added, was that the public could be priced out of rail services. ‘I recently travelled by train form Pisa to Sienna,’ he said. ‘It was a journey of 100 miles and cost 6.7 euros – about a fiver. That is how it should be in the UK.’

 

Alan also dwelt on the ‘appalling‘reaction of the Labour leadership to the electoral defeats of 1 May, which he said heralded the ‘death of New Labour’. He could not understand the knee-jerk reaction of ill-advised leaders to leap to the political right as a way of getting out of its problems.

 

‘British workers are on their way back to feudalism,’ Alan declared. ‘They are still regulated by Thatcher’s agenda. After 11 years of Labour the pendulum hasn’t got back to the middle, never mind swung back to us.’

 

Asked about the Labour leadership, Alan said that Gordon Brown had until ‘the end of the year to avoid the end of the pier’. If there was a challenge to the current Prime Minister, Alan said that the only viable alternative candidate was John McDonnell.

 

Sheriff of Nottingham opens ASLEF conference!

 

Despite some bad publicity the post has attracted in the past, the Sheriff of Nottingham was invited to open ASLEF’s annual conference (AAD) this morning. Unlike his famous predecessor, sprightly 75-year old Brian Grocock is a former mineworker, rather than a medieval tax-gatherer.

 

He stressed the success of the city’s tram services and talked up its attractiveness as a place to ‘live, work and play’.

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