Wilko raises the bar

01 April 2016

I want to thank all those working for our members in Freightliner and DBS hit by the serial effects on the freight sector of the loss of steel and coal traffic. This loss – 16% plus in areas already economically depressed – is a bitter pill to swallow for the whole supply chain. Every officer and company council member is working hard to ensure those impacted are given every opportunity to stay on the railway.

The Shaw report flirts with further fragmentation of the railway to offset investment debt. There is talk of selling off 18 major stations so Network Rail can concentrate on its core business. Rumours abound about the sale of the overhead line structure, and communications structure, of the railway. None of this makes economic or operational sense.

Meanwhile the competition authority, endorsed by the ORR,suggests breaking up intercity routes to encourage open access. More madness! Interesting, of course, that it’s only on lines that generate a surplus. These must be the only bits of the railway that need more – albeit smaller – geographical monopolies?

And we have Peter Wilkinson of the DfT, on £265k a year, publicly declaring that he is going to rip up the contracts of all those £60k a year three days a week train drivers? Apparently we all have big cars and credit cards and will crawl back after a couple of days on strike. To my knowledge there are no £60k a year three days a week drivers but maybe this base line of his should be the basis of all our future pay claims? We could call it the Wilkinson formula!

More importantly, is this DfT policy or did Wilkinson go rogue? We have asked the Transport Secretary to comment and asked what he is going to do about this person. And we reserve the right to take action if any driver suffers abuse or assault arising from his lies. As I said during the Night Tube and junior doctors disputes, they use this dirty tactic of demonising people publicly to damage their terms and conditions and futures. I wonder, is it our turn again?

Finally, I was overwhelmed by the massive support to allow me to continue as general secretary of our trade union. The numerous messages and endorsements,both within ASLEF and the wider movement, left me truly humbled and more determined not to let you down. Deepest thanks, as I see this as recognition of the work all of us in ASLEF do together.

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