ASLEF hits back at Hammond

17 July 2017

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has hit back at ‘ignorant and ill-informed’ comments made by Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an ‘out of touch government’.


Mick said: ‘I know Philip Hammond – condemned on the front page of one national newspaper today as “Hammond the Hypocrite” – is an out of touch minister in an out of touch government but, really, this is ridiculous!


‘For twenty years ASLEF has been at the forefront of pushing for diversity in our industry. We have run campaigns to encourage more women to become train drivers, we have a women’s section in our union, and a dedicated official at head office lobbying the train companies every day.


‘But the truth is that we can only recruit as members the people the privatised train and freight operating companies choose to recruit as drivers. The train companies, not the trade unions, control the recruitment process. And they have been very slow to listen to what we say and join the 21stcentury world of work.


‘And he appears to have conveniently forgotten that, in 2011, when he was Transport Secretary, we wrote and asked for the public sector duties of the Equality Act to apply to train companies and Theresa Villiers, the Transport Minister, wrote back and said “No”. On his watch!


‘Philip Hammond wallows in his own little world but it is, frankly, shameful that he doesn’t know more before he opens his mouth. His ignorant and ill-informed comments do nothing to help this industry, or his government. But, remember, when he was Secretary of State for Transport, he described the railways as “a rich man’s toy”.’


Philip Hammond, on the Andrew Marr show, said: ‘I’m not going to get into what was and wasn’t said in a cabinet meeting but I’ve got two daughters in their early twenties, both high achievers, I don’t think like that, I wouldn’t make a remark like that. It is a disgrace that 95% of train drivers are men. There is no reason that workforce shouldn’t be more gender balanced, except that the unions control the recruitment and training process. In the context of the discussion about industrial relations on the railways, I think it’s very important to focus on that control that the unions have over the training process.’

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