Third day of AAD

14 May 2015

ASLEF’s annual assembly of delegates – our annual conference – is the policy-making parliament of our union. It continued today at the Park Inn Palace in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Guest speaker: Dave Tyson

Dave Tyson has been a trustee director of the Railways Pension Scheme since 2001. He told delegates: ‘I am extremely proud to carry out this job on behalf of ASLEF; the RPS and its 89,000 active members, an increase of 5,000 members since 2011 which I would suggest is in part due to auto-enrolment; 140,000 pensioners;108,000 deferred members and the scheme sponsors, in the best interests of all those who contribute to the scheme and are dependent upon it.

‘In the year to 31 December 2014, £943 million was paid out in pensions, lump sums,and death benefits. The value of the scheme stood at £21.65 billion, an increase of £1.54 billion on the previous year, and considerably higher than the £17.7 billion of 2011.

‘Total contributions were up on the 2013 figures to £686 million, but down on 2011’s figures which is, actually, good news as it means the deficit recovery programme and the increase in value of the scheme’s investments are having an effect.

‘To deliver a world-class pension scheme we have to have the tools to do the job properly and we must invest in our people and give them the tools to do their job. That is why we are investing in a new computer system which will bring automation to many aspects of the administration of your pensions, cutting out mistakes and reducing costs and delivering value for money.

‘Finally, and this is not a pleasant request, but it is important. Only half of members fill in a death in service form. So please get your colleagues to fill in their death in service nomination forms and, if possible, get them to make a will!’

 

Guest speaker: Kenneth Nemachena

Kenneth Nemachena, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Railway Workers’ Union, told delegates: ‘As workers we all fight our common enemy, the employer, the imperialist. As you deliberate your conference motions, it is my plea that you must give the vision of your union, and keep the members you represent at your hearts, so you achieve your mission and all your goals.’

 

Guest speaker: Manuel Cortes

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, but talking to AAD as president of the Greece Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘The GDP of Greece shrinks every time there is greater austerity. Ordinary working people are suffering and suffering greatly. The rich have taken their money out of the country. A quarter of the population is unemployed and half of all youngsters haven’t got a job. A third of the people no longer have access to health care. In a European country, in what is meant to be the first world, I never expected to see people queuing up at soup kitchens because they haven’t got enough to eat.

‘First they protested, then they organised, and then they got together to make a political movement and then they won in the country. People were literally dancing in the streets when the election results were announced!

‘The politics of hope defeated the politics of fear. And that is a lesson for the people of this country. Because I know that the politics of hope can trump the politics of fear. A victory for the Greek people is a victory for you and a victory for me.

‘Because I don’t think we lost the general election last week because we were too left-wing,in fact I think we were too timid. The truth is we lost because we didn’t have the sense of community, and organisation, that they have in Greece. People in trade unions were the base of the Labour Party but we are five million fewer than we were. We need to speak out and we need to branch out. We need to look at new ways of organising.’

 

Cowboy operators

In a passionate, and thoughtful, debate about the safety culture within West Coast Railways and the rise of companies which rely on part-time or retired drivers employed on a casual basis, Paul Sedgebeer, of Reading, said: ‘If we are to share the railway with these cowboy operators, we need a level playing field, and the same knowledge and standards and rules that we have.’

James Glew, Buxton & Peak Forest, said: ‘This is not an isolated incident. There have been far too many incidents. I saw a driver from Devon & Cornwall learning traction on YouTube 20 minutes before he was out on the track. That can’t be safe.’

GS Mick Whelan said: ‘West Coast Railways are an accident waiting to happen.’

And in a very moving piece of personal testimony, which ended with the room rising to applaud his courage in talking about a very difficult work experience, Ryan Howe, of Exeter, explained the effects on his life of a fatality at Ufton Nervet when he was driving an HST.

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