Mick's Column

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

Insidious attacks on driver training

September 2014

I am writing this from the 43rd International Transport Workers’ Federation conference in Bulgaria where the problems of the neo liberal agenda, driven by globalisation and transnational organisations, have been discussed.If we are to operate on behalf of British train drivers in the modern world we have to work with trade unions in other countries, in solidarity, as the impact of technology, and new working practices, often not in the best interests of workers, are in many cases being forced through internationally.

Last month in the Journal we raised the issue of TTIP which is a trade agreement with an agenda that promotes the wholesale privatisation of everything, seeks to prevent the return of public services to public ownership, and undermines the sovereignty of governments. Under one such agreement, when they introduced a minimum wage,companies promptly sued the government for their increased costs. What nonsense!

Closer to home, there seem to be several streams trying to weaken driver training. I am against a national curriculum for train driving and am yet to be convinced of distance learning as an acceptable model. Let me be clear – we will not accept any move to outsource training and will only recognise in-house training that has been negotiated and agreed with ASLEF. Any move to third party training will lead to industrial reaction of the strongest kind. ERTMS is going to become an issue as some think the wholesale retraining of drivers, or introducing the necessary line side signage across the whole network,or appropriate speedometers, is not necessary. They are wrong.

We have spoken before about the broken model for our industry and the current round of temporary franchises and direct awards is testament to this. Some companies are saying the DfT is telling them what they can – and can’t– pay. Let’s make this very clear. We have free collective bargaining and if the companies are not willing to honour their agreements then they should get out of our industry – and stay out.