On Track with Diversity

Train drivers are a colourful group of people. But that doesn’t extend to race or gender, according to our recent 'On Track with Diversity' report: Only about 4.2% of train drivers are women and a mere 4.9% come from ethnic minorities.

on track with diversity front cover‘We decided to find out why this is – and to press employers to come up with remedies,’ says Mick Whelan, the union’s general secretary. ‘These figures show that there is plainly something wrong in this age of professed equality.’

So last year we commissioned a report to put to employers which defines the problem and maps out what we can do to ensure that companies act positively to recruit women and ethnic minorities to fill train driver vacancies.

‘When we raise the issue with employers, we are often told that women and ethnic minorities are not recruited because they do not apply,’ Mick says. ‘This is probably true. But if it is, we need to change perceptions. 

‘There is a host of ways we can do this. We can convince youngsters in schools not to self-select themselves out of applying for a job that is challenging and rewarding. Northern Rail, for example, is doing this now. The company goes out into the community to explain that a career on the foot-plate is not ‘boy’s work’ any more than being a chef is ‘woman’s work’. At the other extreme, the government could include a clause insisting on recruitment diversity in franchise bids.’

'On Track with Diversity' is not merely a moan or a chronicle of facts about failures. ‘It offers a programme of action to train companies about what to do about the problem. We are tired of everyone recognising the problem, shaking heads sagely - and then doing nothing.

‘The union is not responsible for recruitment – that is down to employers. But we are anxious to assist them in changing practices.’

ASLEF has raised the issue with government as well as employers, and has had a sympathetic hearing from Conservative rail minister Justine Greening. ‘We will be pressing her to apply the Equality Act to the industry, and include a clause within franchising bids that each bidder must have an Equality Plan.’

Other initiatives being propose include urging companies to

· Include adverts designed to present companies as inclusive and welcoming to women and placing them where women are likely to read them

· Holding events and open days to encourage women and BEM people to apply

· Ensuring that interview panels are trained in preventing bias and internal recruitment strategies.

The union itself will consider

· raising awareness of the importance of equality and diversity issues among its members

· and other rail employees

· considering support for limited part-time working

· working with employers to support positive action initiatives

· considering whether governmental and quasi-governmental organisations operating in the rail industry can be called upon to comply with the public sector equality duty.

Carolyn Jones, Director of IER said, ‘We are very pleased to have assisted with this excellent piece of work and trust it helps ASLEF achieve its goal of improving diversity. We have agreed to monitor developments and report back to ASLEF in a year.’

‘It is time for us to reconsider the traditional image of the train driver,’ says Mick Whelan. ‘We hope we will find support across the industry for this initiative.’

To read the full report, please click HERE

 

NOTE ON THE AUTHOR

· The report ‘On Track with Diversity’ was written by independent legal professional Muriel Robison, in association with the Institute of Employment Rights.

· Murielis an Employment Judge with the Employment Tribunal Service, a former Head of Commission Enforcement at the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Director of Legal Affairs, Scotland at the Equal Opportunities Commission, Glasgow. She has also published widely in the area of equality and human rights in publications such as SCOLAG, Butterworths Employment Law and the Employment Law Bulletin. She has served as Notary Public since 1992 and was also awarded and Honorary LLD from the University of Glasgow in 2005.

On Track with Diversity

In 2012 ASLEF commissioned a report into diveristy within the train driving grade. The report titled 'On Track with Diversity' found that only about 4.2% of train drivers are women and a mere 4.9% come from ethnic minorities. In this age of professed equality there is plainly something wrong if women and ethnic minority groups are not applying for jobs as train drivers, so we decided to find out why this is – and to press employers to come up with solutions.

On track with diversity cover

 

‘When we raise the issue with employers, we are often told that women and ethnic minorities are not recruited because they do not apply,’ says Mick Whelan, General Secretary. It is common for women to self-select themselves out of applying for train driving jobs, thinking that it is ‘not women’s work’. If this is true, we need to change these perceptions.

 

Everyone connected with the rail industry acknowledges that there is a problem with the numbers of woman and ethnic minorities in our grade, but at the moment there seems to be little effort made to do anything about it. We are tired of people recognising a problem and then doing nothing about it, so our report is not merely a moan or a chronicle of facts about companies’ failure to recruit more diversely for the train driving grade. Instead, our report defines the problem and maps out what we can do to ensure that companies act positively to recruit women and ethnic minorities to fill train driver vacancies. This includes a program of action with proactive suggestions for steps that can be taken.

 

Obviously, the union is not responsible for recruitment – that is down to employers. But we can assist companies in taking steps to improve current recruitment practices. Already, there are some positive examples of good practice within some companies, which can be highlighted to others. Northern Rail, for example, is going into the community to explain that a career on the foot-plate is not ‘boy’s work’ any more than being a chef is ‘woman’s work’. We will be encouraging other companies to take similar steps. For example, companies could produce adverts presenting themselves as inclusive and welcoming to women and place the adverts where women are likely to read them; hold events and open days to encourage women and BEM people to apply; and ensure that interview panels are trained in preventing bias and internal recruitment strategies.

 

The government can also do a lot to change perceptions. We have had a sympathetic hearing from several government ministers who have expressed their concern at the findings of our report. ASLEF will continue to raise the issue with government and will be pressing Conservative rail minister Justine Greening to apply the Equality Act to the industry, and include a clause within franchising bids that each bidder must have an Equality Plan which insists on recruitment diversity.

 

The ‘On Track with Diversity’ report was written by independent legal professional Muriel Robison, in association with the Institute of Employment Rights. It was launched on the 16 May 2012 with a presentation from the author, Muriel Robison, to the union’s AAD. This generated some media attention and the Mirror and Morning Star featured articles on the subject.

 

After the launch of the report copies were sent to other rail unions, the TUC, to all TOCs and FOCs and key political contacts. In order to further promote the findings of the report, several events have been planned: Firstly, several meetings have been set up with interested railway companies, as an opportunity for ASLEF to discuss with employers some ideas and possible strategies for action. In September, an ASLEF fringe meeting will take place at this year’s TUC conference and in the autumn of 2012 an industry seminar will take place which will bring together the HR directors of TOCs and FOCs with ASLEF representatives.   Finally, the possibility of organising a political seminar is being explored, which would aim to bring together Ministers, Shadow ministers and cross party politicians to generate further interest within the political sphere, a number of politicians have already expressed their interest in the report, including Maria Eagle, Justine Greening, Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna.

 

The full report can be downloaded here:  On track with diversity

 

 

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