Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.
We know the dangers of over-hours culture
I have just read the claims that the average employee works 100 hours more than their basic week every year. That bears no relation to anyone I know in our industry – or outside it. There are thousands of people who are working 48 hours or more every week and still cannot live without state support. The figures must be skewed by the million people on zero hours contracts who do not know whether they have work from one week to the next, as well as all those forced on to faux self employment.
We, in our 136 year history, know the dangers of an over hours culture which drives down wages and conditions – and must never regress to those dark days again. Whilst we recruit and grow the driver base, and create opportunities for apprenticeships, work on the introduction of traction, or major infrastructure projects, we are not here to cover for the mistakes of the train operating companies or the DfT.
We seek a vibrant well-invested industry that works for the passenger, the taxpayer and those who hope to operate safely within it. I am not sure that is where we are heading, with all our fears over managed decline looking more and more likely as the amount of money allocated to maintenance and renewals decreases in real terms. The days of temporary speed restrictions and emergency speed restrictions popping up all over the place are not far away. The move back to risk-based maintenance is also a concern as we are all aware of how this contributed to major incidents in the past.
As for major infrastructure investment all the promises seem to have been downsized or delayed and costs increase with no real information or proposals as to future delivery.
Where are we on the Northern powerhouse other than devolving cuts to local councils or civic administrations? We need a national strategy for rail that concentrates on the whole of the United
Kingdom; economic growth, and a much-needed housing initiative, are both dependent on good transport links, so it's time for a major rethink now!
I'm looking forward to our annual assembly of delegates where we hand our trade union over to the member delegates for a week; we look at what we have done and where we are going in future.
Given the issues and challenges we have faced recently, and are going to face in future, I look forward to the debate. All this and a snap general election announced for 8 June! We are going to be busy in the next few weeks...