ASLEF conference update

13 May 2009

The union's annual conference (AAD) is taking place in Nottingham this week.

 

UNION CONTINUES TO PRESS FOR SCOTLAND –TO-CHUNNEL FREIGHT LINE

 

The EC is to step up its efforts to publicise the benefits of having a dedicated freight route from Scotland to the Chunnel. This would make freight a much more attractive option than rail as it would improve speed and reliability. To provide this, by linking up unused or underused existing lines, would only need an additional 12 miles of track and four tunnels according to an article Kelvin Hopkins MP wrote in a recent ASLEF Journal.

 

Conference delegates argued that this would certainly be a better expenditure of money than pushing ahead with a third terminal at Heathrow. While it even could have advantages over a high speed passenger route, Cardiff delegate Bro Masrani said that the logic was to work on both aspects of rail together.

 

‘Let’s get people out of airplanes and into planes, and freight onto rail and off the road,’ he said.

 

The project would keep freight rail workers employed, help the environment and provide a boost to industry.

 

The rail unions and freight companies joined forces in Freight On Rail and ran a successful campaign to ensure that monster lorries weren’t allowed by the UK government. This achievement makes a dedicated route for freight a logical next step.

 

‘Lets’ stop playing politics and get investing in a railway fit for the 21st century,’ urged Bro Grant from Manchester.

 

Freight driver Mick Finn amplified this. ‘The real key to the future is an integrated network with a continental gauge. We are not against air or lorries, we simply need the planning to ensure that all are used effectively.’

 

NO COST FOR GETTING TO WORK

 

Drivers should not be penalised for not being able to get to work on the railway, be that because of the time a turn or duty begins, or because of maintenance. Train drivers, ASLEF’s conference insisted, should be recognised as essential workers. like nurses or the police.

 

One unusual tactic for securing the essential worker status was suggested by delegate Sean Seymour. ‘We could start beating innocent people over the head at G20 demonstrations!’ he suggested. ‘Or hospitalising news vendors.’

 

PROGRESS NEEDED ON TRAVEL FACILITES

 

The union is to continue to argue for free rail travel for all its members and may include it in pay claims for next year. The variations now are clearly unreasonable and obviously not equitable. Some freight drivers have no privileges at all, others have free travel and a priv, some have boxes – and everyone else seems to have a mixture of these. Further, the quarter fare is now often more than the cheapest fare available.

 

Brother Wallington from Neasden pointed out that if a driver is on a train and there is an incident, he or she will be expected to act as the most competent person who will be expected to take on responsibilities. This surely supports the claim for free travel for all.

 

The claim has to be reinvigorated because the number of people who have full privilege travel – those who worked for BR – are declining each year. Once they are gone, reduced free travel will be unusual, rather than the norm, and thus more difficult to achieve.

 

General Secretary Keith Norman said he would discuss with the EC new approaches to securing free travel facilities, saying, ‘We will go to ATOC again, we’ll lobby our MPs and we won’t rule out using industrial action if that’s what’s needed to make progress.’

 

SMART PENSIONS ARE NOT SO SMART FOR EMPLOYEES

 

Delegates at the 2009 conference were concerned that ‘Smart pensions’ rob the National Insurance scheme of money and favour the employer far more than employers. ASLEF has previously not minded

 

The consensus was that they are only acceptable so long as all profits are reinvested into the fund.

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