First North Western

19 August 2005

First North Western 2002 Pay Dispute


Referendum Result


On 21 January 2003, the Executive Committee considered a report of voting from the Electoral Reform Ballot Services in respect of the First North Western (FNW) Drivers’ Pay Offer (Revised December).


The result of voting was as follows:


Question: - Do you accept the First North Western offer?


Number Voting YES 395 (64.9% of valid vote)


Number Voting NO 214 (35.1% of valid vote)


TOTAL 609 (100% of valid vote)


After consideration by the Executive Committee, the EC Resolution 16/419 was adopted:


EC Resolution 16/419


‘That the correspondence be noted and the General Secretary be instructed to inform the Managing Director First North Western that the offer is acceptable to this Society.


Further, the General Secretary be instructed to congratulate our members for the solidarity shown during the dispute and issue a newsletter to this effect.


All Branches and representatives First North Western be advised.


Further, the actions of EC Resolution 935/418 be rescinded.’


“This dispute would have been settled months ago if it wasn’t for the interfering hand of the Strategic Rail Authority, who have attempted to scupper any deal between ASLEF and First North Western at every turn. The disruption that the travelling public have suffered would have minimised if ASLEF and First North Western had not been restrained in their negotiations by the SRA”


Mick Rix, General Secretary –

ASLEF Press Release (21 January 2003).


Strike Date Withdrawn


The proposed industrial action scheduled for 00.01 hours on Sunday 02 February 2003 to 23.59 hours on Monday 03 February 2003 (as authorised by EC Resolution 935/418) has been withdrawn.


SRA Interference


The FNW Pay Dispute is one of the first examples of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) acting as railway wrecker and exerting undue influence in the free collective bargaining process between union and employer.


Mindful of the April anniversary date, pay negotiations on FNW had commenced in good time, and as early as May 2002, after three previous meetings, both your ASLEF negotiators and FNW management indicated they were hopeful of reaching a positive conclusion.


However, even at this early stage, FNW were referring to the SRA and their remit in respect of pay. As reported to members in Head Office Circular 245/2002, FNW stated that the SRA were looking to ensure that any increases over and above inflation would be funded through increased productivity.


By the June 2002 EC session, FNW had made an initial offer; a 3% increase in salaries (equating to approximately a £699 increase). This offer was quite rightly rejected out-of-hand, as not only was the increase at the bottom end of pay rises – but more importantly – it did not address the pay disparity that existed on FNW.


The response from FNW members was magnificent (as it remained throughout the dispute) - and notice of industrial action was originally served on FNW in July 2002, following a massive 87.8% YES vote for industrial action.


As members are aware, what happened next, was not only a case of betrayal and duplicity by FNW, but in light of information that has since come to light, the first of a series of deliberate attempts to wreck negotiations and thwart a resolution.


During the course of the dispute, strike dates were suspended in good faith, only to be reinstated following FNW ‘moving the goalposts’ and on occasion, agreements were reached only to collapse at the ‘eleventh hour’ because of FNW reneging on what had been agreed.


To make matters worse, FNW launched personal attacks on our representatives and sought to undermine our bargaining position through a barrage of propaganda, designed to split the membership and poison public opinion against ASLEF.


Against this background, it is a tribute to the competency of our ASLEF negotiating team that any offer worthy of being put to referendum was reached at all.


Pay Policy


Arising from our pay dispute with Wales & Borders, the existence of a SRA memorandum marked ‘strictly confidential’ has shed light on the machinations and behind-the-scenes interference of the SRA. This matter was reported in the national press, including an article in the Independent newspaper on the 6 January 2003, as reprinted below


The state-backed Strategic Rail Authority is taking control of wage negotiations at least 16 of the 28 train companies. The SRA denies it is interfering in bargaining, but a memorandum marked "strictly confidential" reveals that its operating chief has ordered the Wales and West franchise to resist calls by drivers for an improved wage offer. The internal memo lays out the SRA"s position over pay. Drivers" wages should be set at no more than £26,000 from last April, £27,000 from this April and £28,000 by January 2004.


Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers" union Aslef, sent a letter six weeks ago to Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, and Richard Bowker, the chairman of the SRA, requesting an explanation for the Wales and West memo, but has received no reply. Mr Rix said: "The industry could be facing industrial relations chaos this year unless this is sorted out by the Government. We cannot negotiate with the train operating companies if the SRA is holding the purse strings, but is unwilling to deal directly with the unions or even to outline publicly what is a secret pay policy. This simply cannot go on. This year rail unions will be pressing for a return to national pay bargaining.""


© The Independent




EC Resolution 16/419 instructs me to congratulate members on FNW for the solidarity they have shown their elected representatives and each other. It has been a privilege to be your General Secretary during this dispute and I offer my warmest congratulations to you, your partners and your families over what has been a difficult time.


A deal has been reached on FNW, and although we would have wished for a greater increase in salaries to close the pay gap, for the first time - progress has been made.


The bottom line is that the Strategic Rail Authority has imposed pay restraint on FNW. Documents that were leaked during the Wales & Borders pay negotiations, make it clear that the SRA are interfering with pay negotiations. It is evident that their agenda is to attack and drive down improvements in pay and conditions for our members.


During this dispute, the membership of FNW not only beat First North Western as a company, but you also beat the whole of First Group. We demonstrated tremendous discipline during the dispute and every penny of pay increase was fought for. However, no individual company is going to be able to take on the SRA and it would be unfair to place this burden on your shoulders alone. To tackle these ‘railway wreckers’ will require the whole of the union united in a single campaign.


The solidarity demonstrated by First North Western members has achieved improvements to pay and conditions and is an example to the rest of our union in how to stand together.

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