Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.
The last bastion of truth and integrity
I have never understood the politics of envy but always supported the ethos of aspiration, fairness, dignity and respect. As an organisation we have never subscribed to Margaret Thatcher’s claim that we are a society of individuals but have campaigned on all the issues that impact on us and our families, from the NHS to social care to dignity in retirement, education, and investment. This, of course, after we have undertaken the union’s primary role over terms and conditions, wages and safety. The 136 year history of this craft trade union is one we are rightly proud of, but I’m not sure those who are not in a union understand.
Polling and research shows people want a well-invested, safe and affordable green integrated railway that works for the travelling public, the taxpayer, the freight sector and those who work in it. Strange, then, when we raise issues affecting the freight sector and the future maintenance of our infrastructure, there is no government support and those stakeholders we speak to are incredibly reluctant to say publicly that they share our concerns. Well, we won’t shut up in the light of hundreds of job cuts and the government’s trite response that ‘the market will assert itself’ will come back and haunt them as confidence seeps from the sector.
Even odder, given the many messages of support we have received, is the media frenzy over the dispute on GTR/Southern. Where is the concern over a dishonourable employer ripping up agreements and dragging us to court? Where the concern over Peter Wilkinson’s claims in Croydon that he would orchestrate this dispute? We hear nothing from ministers about that. Nine months of court action and we eventually go on strike, and highlight the company’s reliance on our goodwill and overtime to run its service, and the whole world wants to end the right to strike! Desperate Tory MPs claim the strife their policies caused is political – the last refuge of the inept – while a baying media calls us anti-worker.
Trade unions are the last bastion of truth and industrial integrity in the UK. We fight to make the lives of our members, and their families, better. We will never apologise for that but we do empathise with those impacted by our action. And, every day, the solidarity and unity you show inspires me.