June 2011 - Bash the unions? He would, wouldnt he?

01 June 2013

Last month transport secretary Philip Hammond told an industry conference that, ‘Addressing inefficient working practices and excessive wage demands will form a key part of the strategy for building a sustainable and affordable railway.’ to quote a lady once close to the conservatives, ‘Well he would, wouldn’t he?’ - for the simple reason that he’s a tory.


We expect conservatives to be hostile to working people and their unions, even when it is unmerited and unjustified. They talk about ‘modern industrial practices’ – but their views are based on a ludicrously old-fashioned view of the world. They are fighting battles from years ago, hounding ‘union barons’ who don’t exist and calling for an end to ‘restrictive practices’ that we can scarcely remember.


ASLEF is a modern, democratic and professional union. If the tory mind-set were not so far out of date they would recognise that - and welcome the work we do in industrial relations. To seek to ignore the organised voice of your own workforce is folly - and an inevitable formula for conflict.


When I met Mr Hammond recently he seemed a pleasant enough man. but industrial relations is not his strong point and he must be diverted from approaching it wearing blue blinkers. Playing the part of a pantomime shire tory simply won’t do.


It’s a great shame Mr Hammond never met my old colleague Ross Goff who died last month. He would have realised that trade unions are not festering outposts of discontentment, but honourable and decent organisations that honestly represent working people and care deeply about the industry in which they work.


I took over from ross as district 7 secretary and his example coloured much of my approach to being a union representative. He was proud of his class, diligent in his work and persistent in his advocacy. Everyone who met ross will be deeply saddened at his passing. rest in peace, old friend.

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