Back to the future

01 January 2014

Colleagues, this is a time of year when we traditionally look forward with a great deal of hope and expectation; but a number of meetings or contributions I have had the privilege to listen to have caused a degree of reflection on the past.

Recently it was the 20th anniversary of the privatisation process that fragmented our railway, and initially made our industry far less safe, and failed to deliver the competition, cheaper fares and innovation it promised. We’re still waiting. Despite the concerns of the public, very little coverage was given to this milestone in the press.

We heard Ricky Tomlinson, decades after the event, make a passionate plea for justice – and state transparency – for the outrageous injustice to the Shrewsbury 24. We offer our support and best wishes for success in the struggle for truth – hopefully this year.

The calm dignity of the Durham miners naturally brought to mind that this year is the 30th anniversary of when, in 1983, a Conservative government declared war on its own people. We played a pivotal role in supporting the miners and we will be recognising our joint history over the next twelve months.

I was immensely moved at both the turnout, and the dignified ceremony, that marked the 25th anniversary of the Clapham tragedy where 35 people died, including three of our own. It could be time to revisit the report to see how much has actually been implemented.

This trade union has a long history of social justice and campaigning and, whilst our own strength and unity allows us to continue to successfully defend and represent our members, we must not forget the lessons of the past or what could yet happen to us.

Therefore we shall go into the New Year with renewed vigour and hope, ready with a strong executive committee, powerful officers, and dedicated representatives and branch secretaries for all challenges.

On behalf of all those who represent ASLEF I wish you a prosperous and, more importantly, safe New Year.

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