Mick's Column

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

Rising to meet the challenge head on

December 2015

Recent events in Paris, and the TGV test train crash, naturally bring to mind safety and security in the 21st century during mass transit with ordinary people going about their business. On behalf of us all we have extended our condolences, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those affected.

One of our recurring themes in the last year on all sectors of the railway has been to state the case that, for the travelling public, and those of us engaged in the delivery of services, we need a visible presence everywhere, particularly in currently recognised safety critical roles, and any effort to lessen these essential protections, and the vigilance that goes with them, will be aggressively resisted.

I read with interest about the DfT reducing its budget by 30% in the next four years. We already have a reduction in the network Rail budget, in real terms, on top of the head of network Rail admitting to the Transport Select Committee that they have not costed major projects, such as electrification, properly. We must ensure we do not once more end up with a degraded infrastructure that imports risk whilst being pressurised to deliver services on a performance or penalty based system.

We have faced numerous challenges in the past 12 months, all driven by political will, and decisions from the Caledonian sleepers to the impact of the tax on coal, the attempted forced imposition of the Night Tube and now the impact of the government’s failure to protect the steel industry and, with your help and support, we will continue to meet these head on.

The passing of the Trade Union Bill, even with minor changes,means we have a greater fight on our hands to challenge it in the House of Lords or decide what we are willing to do in relation to bad law. The president of another trade union said, ‘If my general secretary has to go to prison, so be it.’ Hopefully, we are not at that stage, yet.

ASLEF continues to grow and our voice is being heard in the right places doing what we should be doing – fighting for and protecting what we have, and our futures. That happens because of the unity and solidarity you give and show. Thank you!

On behalf of the head office staff, officers, and executive committee, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderful Christmas and a bright, safe and prosperous New Year!