Mick's Column

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

Working to get round the ban on free speech

March 2015

The Welsh Labour Party conference in Swansea reaffirmed that working people and their families need real change from a future government. There is a genuine willingness to look at other models that could deliver a better railway for the people and rail workers of Wales and ensure that surpluses are redistributed for the greater good – and our item on a not for profit model was accepted after a vote.

There are a number of work streams which will involve third parties possibly contacting you directly in relation to the union, its affiliation to the Labour Party, and where we stand at the election.Traditionally, all union members were automatically affiliated to the Labour Party and had the right to nominate and vote in leadership elections and positions such as London Mayor. Since the Collins report, union members still have the right to do this, at no cost, but have to affiliate individually; so much work is being done to ensure you have the voice to which your membership of ASLEF entitles you.

Since the coalition banned free speech under the Lobbying Act trade unions, NGOs and charities cannot talk politics in the year of an election so much indirect work by other organisations will take place.

Social engineering – gerrymandering of the worst kind – means a million eligible voters have been removed from the electoral roll if they do not reside at home. That means every student will have to register to have the vote for which our ancestors fought. It is the traditional responsibility of a trade union to give its members and their families that right, and access to a democratic voice within the Labour Party, and we are endeavouring by every means possible to do this.

These processes are as new to us as they are to you and a strain on the time and resources of the union; but it would be an abrogation of our responsibility not to give our members the opportunity they should have as trade union members.