Sept 2011 - Our future in our hands

01 June 2013

I received a couple of proposals last month. This sounds attractive – until I tell you they were from Bob Crow and Gerry Doherty!


They are the general secretaries of the RMT and the TSSA, two unions that have decided to begin ‘formal talks which could ultimately lead to a merger’. Initially they are setting up a ‘federation structure’.


They decided to write to me, as ASLEF’s general secretary, to tell me that ‘the door will remain open for other smaller specialist unions in transport’.


Who can that mean, I wonder!


When I wrote back I began on a positive note, stressing that good communications between the rail unions is vital, especially in the current political and economic climate. I assured them that we’d be pleased to contribute to any talks about forming closer working relationships.


But I also said quite unequivocally that this is as close as we want to get. We share core values with a number of unions, but we jealously guard our right to advance the pay and conditions of train drivers - without hindrance or restriction from anyone.


We will continue to do that by remaining an independent specialist trade union. I often wonder how many other specialist groups of workers who lost their identity by being swallowed up in mega unions wish they could turn the clock back.


These mergers always start with the specialists being offered ‘autonomy’ – which seems to me to be a contradiction: their autonomy - the ability to make their own decisions without outside interference – is exactly what they are required to give up! A few years later, they are swallowed whole and disappear into a well of bureaucracy, never to be seen again.


It’s not going to happen to our union. By ensuring our destiny remains in our own hands, ASLEF will deliver both its obligations towards its own members and its responsibilities to others.

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