July 2012 Thanks to delegates

01 June 2013

THIS year’s union conference was the first I have attended as general secretary and I was, as ever, struck by the level of knowledge and understanding of our industry by the delegates sent to the Liverpool Annual Assembly of Delegates. We’re always being invited to attend ‘industry conferences’ with panels of ‘rail experts’. I felt a certain sense of pride that most of our representatives showed a much deeper awareness than any of these esteemed ‘specialists’.


The one obvious down-side was a familiar railway difficulty: punctuality! Open and far-ranging debate is to be welcomed, but for the second year in succession the conference failed to get to the end of the agenda. This is disappointing, especially for the branches who had submitted items that weren’t discussed. The union’s executive committee are considering what changes would be necessary to ensure we get through all our business.


I like to see the Journal reflect the broad range of items discussed at conference. Your representatives at every level must never be afraid or ashamed of anything we do in your name. I accept that members will have different levels of involvement with the union, and may react differently to issues we consider in addition to our direct work within the rail industry. No one could accuse ASLEF members of being clones!


But I also think we have a right to stimulate debate. The days when unions sought to impose views are, thankfully gone. Now we have a more mature unionism that seeks to win arguments: to convince rather than to dictate. The article on Palestine in the previous edition raised some heated comment but I don’t apologise for it being in the magazine. It is only by discussing and debating issues that we can come to wise collective conclusions. That is the model for our annual conference – and I am happy to see it replicated in the pages of the Journal.

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