Representative democracy

01 April 2017

Democracy in its various forms has been a leading topic in recent weeks, whether as a result of recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland, the sovereignty of Parliament in the Brexit debate, or our own internal and long established, member-driven, rule book-based processes. The recent spin on Stoke and Copeland I found quite ironic. The rhetoric before Stoke was that if UKIP won it would mean Labour had lost the working-class for ever; after Stoke was won the same line was trotted out over Copeland. As for Brexit, and the triggering of article 50, the people have voted; but why then should Parliament not have a vote on whatever deal may or may not be achieved? They had to vote on the terms of joining the Common Market, why not on the terms for leaving the EU?


We are proud to be the most democratic trade union, with everyone in every position elected, from the branches to the representatives in the collective bargaining machinery to the officials who, uniquely, have all been train drivers and bring that understanding of our industry with them. It is a representative democracy based on the fact that all reps have to carry out ASLEF policy as created by AAD or our executive committee but, ultimately, it is based on majority decisions in every branch, local representative group, company or functional council, AAD or EC. Then all those involved have a collective responsibility to carry out that decision. You cannot opt in and out on the decisions you choose. I’m not sure why, after 137 years, that needs clarifying? When people choose to join ASLEF, and we are not a closed shop, they sign up to the rule book, and we are all covered by it.


Trade unions are about people, first and foremost, and we are lucky that we are tight knit, and there are not 27 layers of admin between the shop floor and the rest of us, who are all known by our Christian names, and have this industry and drivers at the heart of everything we do. We can always be better, we seek to evolve, but that means that you, the members, have to drive policy and change. The branches and AAD where our members make policy and analyse what we do and how we do it is what gives this union its impetus and strength. We are under attack, and fighting to keep what we have got, and your support and solidarity is extraordinary. It’s our union; use it, promote it, and, if necessary, change it. But let’s build it together.

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