New year, new hope, new fears

01 January 2016

We face the New Year, as always, full of hope and aspiration but aware of the many challenges ahead, not only in protecting our terms and conditions, but industrially and politically.

The government’s decision not to protect our steel industry,while other countries support theirs, makes us think not only of the workers and families affected but also the supply chain, and transport of materials,and finished product, and the implications for rail freight as we await decisions on future contracts.

The Trade Union Bill, signalling the end of a democratic voice for millions of people, has passed in the Commons and now we have to campaign against it in the Lords.

Industrially, we welcome investment in new trains, but not at the expense of other grades. Investment should improve service and safety, not reduce dwell times and put greater strain on the driver. We shall not be supporting DOO where the EC determines it does not fall within existing agreements or is new. That decision is underlined by two incidents that make a mockery of any pretension the industry has to safe running. The first is the prosecution of a conductor in Liverpool, exonerated by company and industry investigations, and our sister union has our backing in this travesty. The second, which is subject to a number of high level meetings as this edition of the Journal goes to press, is an RAIB report that says we can no longer rely on traction interlock and have to subsequently check again. This makes a nonsense of the safety case for DOO and means we should be in degraded working, depending on getting out and checking every door individually. Much better to have a guard on every train and every platform properly manned.

In the case of sliding door stock, with a guard at unmanned platforms, trains should not run because once the conductor has done the platform check, stepped inside, closed the local door and engaged interlock,how would they do the subsequent visual check? We were sold interlock on the basis you cannot get power if there is an obstruction or the brakes come on; if it is lost, better or more sensitive technology, not poor guidance, has to be the solution!

Kellingley colliery closed on 18 December and our thoughts are with those who lost their jobs. It’s the Thatcher legacy and we know that this year, like every year, we will have to fight for everything we want, and fight to keep what we have.

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