First day of AAD

12 May 2015

ASLEF's annual assembly of delegates - our conference - is our policy making parliament. It opened at the Park Inn Hotel in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, today.


Conference opened by Tony West

Tony West, former assistant general secretary of ASLEF, now national secretary of our Retired Members’ Section, officially opened ASLEF’s annual assembly of delegates today [Tuesday]in Southend.

He told delegates: ‘It’s not Southend. It’s Sarfend! Best cockles and mussels in the world. Now I’ve been a member of this trade union for 53 years. I joined the railway in 1955 at Stratford, the biggest depot in Britain, and probably Europe, at the time. Took me ten years to become a driver, because it was dead men’s shoes. Engine cleaner, fireman, then driver. Went to Stratford branch, the biggest branch in the country, to participate, to listen and to learn. I got elected LDC at Stratford; was District Secretary for five years; AGS for six; and have spent15 as secretary of the RMS. I served five years on Bexley council in opposition and learned that, however good your speeches, and however sound your ideas,when you’re in opposition, you achieve nothing. But I wouldn’t have achieved anything if I hadn’t been in ASLEF because I believe we belong to the finest trade union in this country today.

‘In the RMS we will continue to do what we’re here for, to work with the National Pensioners’ Convention to fight for the rights of pensioners because, at the end of the day, every one of us will, if we’re lucky with our health, become a pensioner.


Executive committee president’s address

In his address Tosh McDonald,president of the executive committee, told delegates: ‘We suffered a defeat on Thursday, no point in pretending we didn’t. For the first time since 1997 we have a Tory government with a majority. But we don’t need to throw it all away. Because to come back and fight, and not to run away, is the ASLEF way.

‘The easy option, ten years ago, when this union was in serious trouble, would have been to join another union and fold. But we didn’t. And that’s just one of the reasons why I am proud, as president, to be sitting alongside Mick Whelan, one of the best general secretaries in the history of this great union.

‘The people of Scotland turned to the SNP because Labour wasn’t bold enough. Labour didn’t stand against austerity, they stood for austerity light.

‘I want to thank every single member who went out, in line with ASLEF policy, to try and deliver a Labour government. We failed this time but we have five years to regroup and have another go.

‘We have the industrial strength and the industrial muscle to deliver the goods. In DBS not one person was forced out of this industry. Now we have to face the problem of the doubling of the tax on coal. We have just secured a four year deal at Southeastern. four years of inflation-busting pay rises. That takes Southeastern through four-fifths of this Tory government. And that’s a shining light to how ASLEF works.

‘District 8 faces turmoil this year with the challenge of 24 hour working announced by Boris Johnson and his cronies in TfL. But they are going to have to come and sit down and negotiate with ASLEF or they won’t have any trains running. Because our members have had enough. Never accept changes in framework agreements unless they are negotiated with ASLEF. And if they need to take action this year then they will have the full support of ASLEF.’


Tosh concluded by telling delegates: ‘This is the most important body of ASLEF. You make the policy that we carry out. We’ll have disagreements. Sometimes they get quite heated. And they should. But then we go and have a drink. And that’s how it should be…’


Auditor’s report

Mark Daniels gave the Trustee Report on the Auditor’s Report before Phil Clark gave the Auditor’s Report to conference. ‘It’s great that the union is on such a sound financial footing,’said John Glazebrook of Portsmouth & Isle of Wight.


Speaker: Katy Clark

Katy Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, from 2005 to 2015, called on the labour movement to turn its back on Tony Blair and New Labour and to build a broad socialist movement to take on the Tory government.

‘Make no mistake, they will be coming for us. We need to build a movement against what the Tories are goingto do to us. The unions are going to have to put up a defence to the massive attacks of this Tory government, as are the groups who defend their attacks on welfare, and the political movements we need to build to fight the ideology put forward by Priti Patel and others in key positions.

‘The Labour Party has not been connected to the people it should have been representing for a very longtime. It goes back to the New Labour project, the failure to take on the privatisations, and the war in Iraq.

‘We need to seriously assess where we are and put forward a strategy that will win people back. In Scotland that means having a separate Labour Party deciding it own policy because the type of policies coming out of Westminster do not relate to what people want in Scotland.

‘They don’t relate to what people want in England, either. I was told by the Labour whips that every policy had to be about winning Middle England, winning those seats, I was told the interests of my constituents weren’t the most important thing. But I know that many people in this country, in England, have similar interests as those communities I represented.

‘I may no longer be an MP but I am still proud to be part of the labour movement and will be working for the return of Labour government.’

Asked by delegates how Labour can rebuild after its devastating defeat, she said: ‘We need to get a lot more people to join the Labour Party in Scotland because the Labour Party in Scotland has been hollowed out. I stood to be deputy leader of the Scottish Labour Party and I was unsuccessful because I was perceived to be too left-wing. The Scottish Labour Party is the party of the cities and the partyof the middle-class. We need to build the Labour Party in Scotland so it reflects the people it needs to represent.

‘Voting Labour isn’t enough.We have to rebuild the movement. The range of candidates [for the leadership]won’t be broad but we will get a choice. An ideological and a political battle have been going on in the Labour Party for a very long time.

‘We also have a numbers problem in the Labour Party. There aren’t enough of us! But we need to get involved. Unless we have socialists and trade unionists in there fighting we don’t have a hope of defeating New Labour once and for all.’

Jim Baxter, Motherwell, said:‘Labour say the electorate isn’t listening. No! The Labour Party isn’t listening. We need to get rid of Jim Murphy.’

Katy said: ‘It’s not just the message, but the messenger, and Jim Murphy should consider his position.’



Speaker: Chris Langer

Chris Langer, CIRAS scheme intelligence manager, addressed AAD about the role, ‘as a safety net,’ in the railway industry, of the Confidential Reporting System.



Rule book amendments

 Two amendments to the ASLEF rule book, proposed by the executive committee, were passed unanimously by delegates.

The first changes contributions to the political fund from 2.5% of each annual contribution to4%.

The second ensures that no part of contributions paid by any members who have exercised their right to opt out of contributing to the political fund will be paid into the political fund and the whole of their contributions shall remain in the general fund.



GS speaks out on right to strike

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, spoke in support of a motion moved by Leytonstone, and seconded by Bakerloo line, about the right to strike in a debate about adopting the executive committee and officers’ report on relations with other unions.

Mick said: ‘It’s every worker’s right to withdraw his or her labour. There is no right to strike in UK law but we believe in the right to strike and we will work to defend our right to strike.

‘Because there is no fairness in this. There are no sanctions for employers who behave badly. That’s why we are calling on the TUC to run a campaign against this proposed law.

‘There’s a public perception that we’re always out on strike. But whenever I challenge anyone to tell me when we were last on strike they can’t do it. Because we don’t want to cost ourselves money or cause inconvenience to the travelling public. We only call as trike as a last resort.

‘But we know where the Tories are coming from on this. They want to ban trade unions. There used to be two trade union seats on the TfL board. Boris Johnson withdrew them. That’s his template for a future Tory administration if he’s elected leader.

‘And it won’t work, anyway.It would only take us back to the days of wildcat strikes.’


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