Mick's Column

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

Where decisions that affect us are made

October 2016

It is sometimes easy to fall into the trap of the railway bubble, especially with some of the toxic government-driven organisations we are forced to deal with. Refreshingly, the TUC reminded us about all the other issues that affect our families and our futures.Naturally,we were involved in debates about strategic investment and railways, the future of freight, supply chains, apprenticeships and the selling off of railway land.

Steel workers were present and the continuing uncertainty for their futures, and families, moved delegates; the striking GTR Southern conductors also got a huge response due to malicious treatment by a poor employer. Testimonies from teaching unions and those in the NHS make it clear that this government is creating a society for the rich, attacking social mobility and access to healthcare. From every sector the impact and effects of austerity give evidence to the lie of the Big Society; it is clear there is areal battle for all our public services. In Manchester they are talking of sacking 1,250 firefighters so they can alter their contracts and we will support the FBU in the coming battle.

We sometimes get questioned as to why we devote so much time and effort to politics. Itís because thatís where the decisions that impact on our industry and our lives are made; trade unions were set up to give workers a voice in that process. We have seen, recently, the impact in the freight sector of political decisions on coal and steel and there writing of agreements in the ITT process to sponsor forced change of hard-won agreements.

The campaign is over and the Labour Party leadership has been decided (again). Now itís time for the party to come together to challenge a Tory government that needs to be confronted, especially in relation to the future of the United Kingdom outside the EU.

I met with Chris Grayling, the new Transport Secretary, and raised our concerns over the safe operation of the railways. It would be misleading to report that he shared our views on current policies which we oppose, and know are driven by the DfT, and told him we shall continue to contest.

Simon Weller, ASLEFís assistant general secretary, has been re-elected to the TUC general council and deserves to be congratulated. I also send congratulations to Richard (Dicky) Fisher on his reelection as District Organiser No 6.