Second Day of ASLEF conference

18 May 2010

Some highlights of the second day of the ASLEF 2010 Annual Assembly of Delegates included • An address by Edwina Hart, AM • Support for flexible working • Backing for voluntary work at weekends and Boxing Day • Call for progresss on transport facilities (free travel)


Edwina Hart, Welsh Assembly member for Gower since 1999, was given the warmest reception at ASLEF’s conference as she declared that it was time to challenge the way Labour’s politicians were chosen. ‘We need a balance of gender and race and we need to halt the way the road to Parliament is university, researcher and then MP,’ she said. ‘We need representatives who have experience of life and who understand what really matters to the people in their constituencies.’

She began her address expressing her best wishes to Keith Norman, before talking about the upcoming election of the Labour leader. ‘I hope it will be about policy rather than personalities. The point it to establish Labour as a centre-left party again, and not to always seek the middle ground,’ she said. ‘We have a moral responsibility to take a socialist vision forward.’

She spoke about her youth when everyone joined a union as a matter of course, and how union membership taught values that were central to being a politician. ‘When I went to work there was no indecisiveness about joining a union. It is what you did.’ Her experience in unions taught her vital lessons about solidarity, negotiations – and how to sit through endless meetings which was very valuable if you work in a coalition government, as she had in Wales!

She concluded by saying that the legal decisions taken to stop the BA cabin workers strike was a disgrace not only from a legal point of view but also because ‘A Labour government had 13 years to change the anti-union laws that are being used – and they did nothing. Had they done so this problem would not exist.’


The law on flexible working only allows workers the right to apply for this facility and the union is to campaign to change this. Currently there is no compulsion on employers to do anything other than ‘consider’ such requests: it is ASLEF’S belief that companies should be obliged to negotiate.


The union is calling on all rail companies to cover Boxing Day services on a voluntary basis – and, further, believes that there should be no enforced overtime under any circumstances. The Derby branch didn’t want any Sunday services to be run on overtime, especially given the level of unemployed people in the country.


Eastleigh branch pointed out ludicrous arrangements where staff from a single depot could take a day out together and while some would have free travel, others would have to pay considerable sums to go along. This was especially true for non protected members in the freight sector.

A compromise suggesting safeguarded staff must be issued with a pass to allow unlimited free travel on all TOC and staff employed since privatisation should receive 16 days free travel on all TOCs was not accepted because ‘We’re all the same.’

Because it was impossible to make progress with individual companies, the union is developing a long-term strategy which would involve fabricating a national response from companies. But Simon Weller warned, ‘It does not look likely that this will be achieved by negotiation alone’ and Alan Donnelly pointed out that if there are empty seats on a train, it costs the companies nothing.

It is an issue on which union representatives are constantly questioned and a source of very real discontent, which is why there is support for industrial action to secure this facility across the board for all drivers.

The AAD also reaffirmed the union policy that our grades should be exempt from congestion charges when they are going to work – or companies should pay the costs. We are part of a public transport system that these charges are supposed to encourage – so it makes no sense to put restrictions onto the very people who provide these services.

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