Mick's Column

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

2017201620152014  - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

Other archived columns:  2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005

 

Stakeholder chickens come home to roost

 

March 2017

 

At any other time we would be celebrating the fact that, after three decades, the cross-party Transport Select Committee has finally admitted what we have said all along – that rail privatisation doesn’t work. John Major blatantly misled us when he said Europe has told us to privatise our railways and claimed competition would increase investment, reduce public subsidy, improve services and cut fares. This is reflected in the first lines of the Select Committee’s report: ‘The premise behind franchising was that competition would increase efficiency, reduce taxpayer subsidy, lower fares and improve services. While franchising has facilitated passenger growth and service improvements, it is clear it has not yielded all the competitive benefits initially envisaged by the government in the early 1990s. Many metrics of performance are plateauing and the passenger is not receiving value for money.’

 

Actually, studies have shown that population growth, and GDP, not the model, were the main drivers for the increase in passengers and services. ‘The transfer of financial risk to the private sector was another central premise of rail franchising’ but the report highlights that, in 2015/16, £4.8 billion of public subsidy was still provided for the privatised railways. Let’s not wait another 30 years; let’s renationalise our railways now! When making our case for bringing Britain’s railways back into public ownership I often challenge people to name a successful privatisation. Successful, that is, not for the banks, the shareholders, or the pension funds; but for the customers, the taxpayers, and the workers. I’m still waiting.

 

So are the chickens coming home to roost in the ‘stakeholder society’? As the pretence of living in a ‘big society’ quietly disappears, the government seems, finally, to have recognised that we have priced current and future generations out of the housing market. Governments of all colours have failed to address the problems – a consequence of decisions taken in the 1980s and ’90s – of the gig economy, a decline in social mobility, educational opportunity, and the NHS. We need radical policy change.

 

The executive committee has discussed Brexit and we shall be supporting maintaining workers’ rights, and all forms of human rights legislation, and supporting the best possible deal for manufacturing and trade, supporting the NHS and skilled workers, based on protection of wages and terms & conditions being not undermined or reduced.


 

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