Mick's Column

Here you can find the regular column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

Strikes the result of breaking bad

February 2016

Should we accept bad faith? It occurs to me that all of our current industrial issues are driven by people who unilaterally operate outside the collective bargaining and framework agreements we have in place. Having reacted,on behalf of our members, listened to their wishes, balloted, and jumped through all hoops, industrially and politically, we get castigated for daring to protect our conditions and our families’ futures. So it is with great pride that I congratulate our members in ATW for their recent solidarity and wish them, and our members on the Tube, every success in the ongoing struggles.

On your behalf we sent messages of support to the BMA, who are going through a process we recognise, of Jeremy Hunt announcing wholesale changes to working practices that devalue a vocational role and, according to the doctors, will make them, and patient care, worse off whilst twisting the data and using the media to demonise them. One commentator on Question Time said they were led by radical left-wingers and the strikes are political; that smacks of desperation when talking of a group that put patients first and have not taken action for 40 years.

We never believed that the controllers of the vested interests,with the creation of the Rail Delivery Group, could or would work together for the good of our industry by giving leadership; they became a mouthpiece for politically promoting privatisation and we welcome, after many complaints, them now being banned from doing so.

We argued for Directly Operated Rail to remain on the East Coast as a public comparator, due to its unrivalled success in performance, passenger satisfaction, and financial returns to the government, but it seems it has been wound down and the role given to a group of privateers – Arup, EY and Interfleet, rebranded SNC Lavalin Rail & Transit – to provide a stand-by service on retainer. I doubt we will see the success of DOR mirrored again. As Lilian Greenwood said, ‘Ministers are reducing their options for reforming the railways and undermining their own bargaining position.’

Redundancies in the steel industry, mainly in South Wales, but also in Corby and Hartlepool, frighten me, not only for the supply chain but for the future of manufacturing in the UK. How can we talk of an industrial future without having the means to deliver it? It is time to protect our industry from the subsidised dumping of goods and materials and to recognise that TTIP will only make the position worse, not better.