July 2007 - Members set out the course for this proud trade union

01 June 2013

It’s healthy for the body to go to the sea-side – but it’s also healthy for the body politic. I told the delegates you sent to this year’s AAD in Scarborough that they were, for the next week, the executive and leadership of ASLEF. It was not a casual remark. It was a fact.

For 51 weeks of the year I am the senior officer of your union, a position that gives me some influence in its direction. I am its foremost spokesman. The major difference during conference week is that my major task is not to speak, but to listen.

It is a humbling experience and I confess I’m not used to it! But it is healthy and I welcome it. It is a reminder to us all that ASLEF isn’t its general secretary or its regional officials. ASLEF is its members.

We had a few sharp debates, but they were mainly about strategy – that is, how to achieve our objectives, rather than about what those objectives should be. It is heartening and encouraging that our activists, and our union, are of a single mind on so many of the issues we discussed – like pensions, cab conditions, the importance of freight, free

passes and the future of our profession.

Much of this unity comes from being part of a small and specialist union, and I was delighted to see your representatives stress the importance of this continuing by planning a secure financial base for our future. In some ways we are bucking the trend of union mergers and the formation of huge general unions – but I believe we are right to remain as an independent voice for train drivers.

I can see why mega-unions are being formed. In part it is the result of the de-skilling of the UK workforce. Specialist occupations like our own are becoming rare: which is what gives us our particular influence and status. We are not general workers, and those unions who cater for them are, I suspect, less interested in our particular concerns than in our industrial strength. We are rightly suspicious of being courted only to end up as tools

to be used for other ends.

We are successful as a union because of, and not despite, our size. We are more than just a union. We are a genuine fraternity of men and women who depend on each other as we work, who mix together socially, and who share a pride in our job and our union. Thanks to the decisions of last month’s AAD, that is how we will remain.

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy