TUC Fring Rally: Rail unions

28 July 2005

Rail unions summoned trade unionists to make rail public ownership of the network the centre of next year¹s general election campaign.

 

At a packed TUC lunchtime fringe, hosted by think tank Catalyst, ASLEF and sister unions RMT and TSSA pledged every effort to restore the rail industry to public ownership.

 

Picture shows Frances O"Grady TUC deputy general secretary,

Gerry Docherty TSSA, Martin McIvor "Catalyst", Bob Crow RMT

with ASLEF national organiser Andy Reed speaking

 

Welcome support came from TUC deputy general secretary Frances O¹Grady and left wing Labour MP John McDonnell who reported that the campaign is gathering momentum within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

 

A "real breakthrough" came in July, with Labour"s National Policy Forum voting to allow a debate on rail ownership at the looming party conference he said.

 

Frances O"Grady condemned that the catastrophic waste experienced since privatisation and pointed out ministers often insist that any policy changes be "evidence-based" and backed by proof that they will provide "value for money."

 

There is now "truckloads of evidence" for the benefits of an integrated, publicly owned rail network she said.

 

ASLEF national organiser Andy Reed pledged that train drivers will do everything possible at the Labour conference to secure a commitment to public rail ownership and urged TUC delegates to back today"s motion calling for renationalisation.

 

"We must send a resounding message from congress to the Labour conference to give those delegates confidence," he said.

 

But Andy Reed warned that, even if Labour commits itself to renationalisation, there is still the threat posed by the privatisation agenda, which lies at the heart of the European Union project. TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty stressed that the public subsidy to the rail privateers now stands at £5 billion a year, five times the amount under privatisation.

 

"If British Rail had received that level of commitment, we would have a rail network that would be the envy of the world today."

 

RMT general secretary Bob Crow called for renationalisation to take the process further than under the British Rail regime, which he dubbed Œstate capitalism.¹

 

He said that railways should be run purely by the people who operate them, for the people who travel on them, with any profit ploughed directly back into the network.

 

And he won applause when he slammed the hypocrisy of politicians who backed the free market but criticised unions like ASLEF who were able to win higher wages.

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