Dec 2011 - Give me strength! The challenges ahead…

01 June 2013

This is the first column I write as your general secretary. My first thoughts are for my predecessor, Keith Norman. It is due to his commitment and dedication that I now head a union that is stable in terms of membership and finances. And to be quite honest, we are going to need to be well equipped to resist the attacks on our conditions and our jobs that look inevitable over the coming years.


I took over the general secretary’s chair on the last day of November, the day of the biggest trade union demonstration for decades. Britain’s public servants came out in force in the face of their employers demanding that they pay more for worse pension conditions. We back public sector workers in that fight not only because it is morally just, but because our employers are watching the outcome as carefully as we are. But with far less benevolent motives.


We have also seen ignorant Tory politicians and their backers in the press enthusiastically backing wild talk about driverless trains that defies logic, but indicates a hostility to our grades we will need to overcome. Driverless trains are unsafe trains. The public knows that and the industry knows that. The problem is that many in our political class are unsullied by contact with either the public or with industry.


And then we will have to deal with the legacy of the McNulty Report. The government is to issue an ominously named ‘Command Paper’ early next year on the issue. Undoubtedly it will simply parrot Mr McNulty’s thoughts. Not that I dismiss all he had to say: when he blamed ‘fragmentation’ for the railways ills, I applauded him. But then he went on to propose more fragmentation. It sums up what being a ‘consultant’ means to me. Pay enough and you get the answer you want.


We will, as ever, have challenges to face in the coming years. But I know the union can count on you. And I promise you that you can count on me.


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