Mick's Column

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

Driven by change

August 2014

Our industry is going through major change, much of it driven not by the needs of the travelling public, the taxpayer, or the thousands who rely on the railways for work, but by politics and the protection of a flawed,and failed, system by the government.

Our bid to legally question the rushed franchising of the East Coast has been refused by the courts and we are considering legal advice on how we might proceed. Existing franchises are being extended by direct award,without any form of tendering or competition, and there is a frightening trend of companies no longer being invited to bid to run and develop a service but to cut jobs and services, as proposed by the Northern invitation to tender. The imposition of driver only operation as a norm is not about improvement but cutting wage bills as a way of increasing profits in an industry that saw £707 million paid out in dividends last year.

Rail policy has, recently, been at the forefront of political debate (as we have always argued it should be). We are engaging when and where we can to influence that debate in the run-up to the general election.

This is the time of year when the Durham Minersí Gala and the Tolpuddle festival, two of the biggest events on the trade union calendar, take place and anyone who doubts the relevance of trade unions should attend; they would be converted immediately. 100,000 went to the Big Meeting and I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of ASLEF. But all the speakers talked about the future of our communities, education, housing, rail, the NHS, properly paid jobs, the Royal Mail, food banks, and the perverse legislation that denies us justice.

To all who voted in the political fund, thank you. The District 7 executive committee election will be a run-off between Andy Hudd and Bryan Davies and we wish both well. The new TSGN franchise starts soon;the lead officer will be Graham Morris with Dick Fisher taking on responsibility for Eurostar.