The third day of the ASLEF conference

22 May 2013

  • Discussed the misuse of TPWS
  • Called for improved uniforms for women drivers
  • Continues to back the Action for Rail Campaign
  • Criticised the New Labour legacy
  • Agreed to campaign against the end of CICA
  • Called for protection for black and ethnic minority members driving far right demonstrators
  • Heard from the Hope not hate campaign’s Matthew Collins
  • Considered four health and safety issues



There is concern that the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS), although it has undeniably improved safety, is being used by some managers to discipline and humiliate train drivers. If a SPAD or other incident takes place it is in some areas broadcast around a depot where a particular driver can easily be identified.

The union argues that when a TPWS intervenes at a speed restriction there should be no discipline or corrective processes taken against a driver if it can be proved that the train was being driven within the braking curve relevant to that traction.


Shock news, says Pauline Cawood, secretary of the Leeds branch: women would like to be provided with uniforms that fit them.

‘We are in the 21st century,’ she said. ‘Is it really too much to get uniforms tailored to recognise gender? Even managers must be able to see that the body shape of men and women are different!’


The conference instructed the Executive Committee to continue to work with the other rail unions in the Action for Rail Campaign and to promote the Rebuilding Rail report and continue the campaign to reunite Britain’s railways under public ownership.

Mick Whelan, the general secretary, said he didn’t care if it was called nationalisation, public ownership or anything else ‘as long as they get this government out and get a better, more ethical railway with a better future.’


The Conservative-led coalition, not surprisingly, came in for a good kicking from delegates in Edinburgh. But there were plenty of harsh words for New Labour, too.

Tosh McDonald, vice-president, said, ‘We have to win Labour back, and have the same sort of class consciousness as the Conservatives have. New Labour – or Progress as they’re now called – didn’t take Labour from us, we handed it over to them. Now we want the party back. A good start would be to get an ASLEF member into parliament.’

And Ian Neeve of Marylebone said: ‘Nye Bevan would turn in his grave if he could see what is happening in our movement.’


The conference instructed the Executive Committee “to take whatever action they deem fit, including campaigning, legal action, lobbying and/or industrial action’ to overturn the government’s scrapping of train drivers’ eligibility for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.


It is a sad fact that the railway provides transport for fascist and racist groups to take them to demonstrations. In many cases this means that train drivers of black or ethnic origin have to take them to locations where they often cause violence, and always bring hate and prejudice.

It is unacceptable that black and ethnic minority train drivers are put in a position of potential risk. The union will seek agreements with the train companies to accommodate these drivers when demonstrations take place.


Anti-fascist campaigner Matthew Collins told conference he feared that UKIP is turning out to be far more dangerous than the BNP ever was because UKIP will drive David Cameron ever further to the right.

‘UKIP is wall to wall with racists,’ he declared. ‘It’s a party which wants to take Britain back to the 1950.’

Matt, the author of ‘Hate: My Life in the British Far Right’ was a member of the National Front and the British National Party before changing sides. He now writes for Searchlight magazine and is an activist with Hope Not Hate.

‘Working for £1 or £1.50 a day isn’t the immigrant dream. The first thing they should do is join a trade union. That way they won’t get ripped off and you won’t get ripped off, because if they are unionised no one can come up the ‘they are taking my job’ nonsense.



The union is to launch a campaign to ensure all TOCs and FOCs to use the cleanest fuel available. One way of making the exhaust emission as clean as possible would be by fitting Diesel Particulate Filters or appropriate alternatives. ASLEF will also seek to ensure that air funnelled into all cabs have adequate filters that are regularly serviced.


There are increasing numbers of drivers being medically redeployed or retired because of back problems. One way to limit these injuries is to ensure that our members can drive both sitting and standing as changing between the two can be beneficial.

ASLEF will insist that new rolling stock has the facility for both sitting and standing.


This year’s annual conference insists that floral and other shrines by the side of the track, often at suicide spots, should be removed.

‘They are a constant and unnecessary reminder, sometimes the innocent driver who has been involved in the incident. It is wrong to have to be subjected to this as they go about their business,’ Mick Whelan says. ‘We share the regrets of the families, but these shrines are inappropriate.’

The union is not seeking the removal of official commemorations of railway accidents.

The Samaritans add that the tributes attract other potential suicides to the same places and they join with the union in seeking their removal.


The union is to make efforts to include dyslexia awareness within training course for branch secretaries and other representatives. There will also be expanded to include other disabilities or disorders.

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