A real voice

01 May 2019

We have been preparing for our annual assembly of delegates in Leeds, our annual conference, where nearly half our branches will be represented. It's a time for reflection, debate, critique, and creativity. We look back over our achievements and at the things we could do better; what we might change, and what we aspire to in the future, industrially, politically, and societally.


I raise AAD because some members do not seem to understand that this is where policy is created, changed, or updated. Branches are asked, every year, to submit items for discussion that can become the overarching policies of the union that every representative is obliged to seek to achieve.


We are one of the few unions that remains committed to an annual conference run for and by the members, with a lay delegate as chair, and only delegates permitted to vote; becoming, effectively, the executive committee apart from some legal areas dictated by law.


This process is important for many reasons, not just because we are the most democratic craft trade union – where only train drivers represent train drivers – or because we have evolved our democracy over 139 years. It’s about having a real voice. These structures allow engagement and a voice.


I have heard 'It's only those who go to the branch that make the decisions' but anyone can attend and everyone can have a say and everyone has a vote. We give you the opportunity to contribute.


It does not matter how many social media groups are out there – open, closed, or those that have ASLEF in the title – they do not feed into or create policy. They can be useful, on occasion, for dissemination of information, and correcting misinformation, but do not effect change and I want to encourage our members to drive our vision.


Such input is invaluable as we get the annual 'most expensive diary in the world' comments as the annual subscription rise happens. Only members can shape the future and those of us elected to guide that change.


We must be always listening but respecting our democracy is the one constant under whatever system, political or industrial, we operate and knowing what we want and where we want to be.


What we decide not only drives our industrial, safety, and political agenda, but also impacts on those who come after us. We only have what we have today because of those who created policy, and fought for it, and we have a duty to do the same.


So I look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones in Leeds, to challenging debates, and to the opportunity of building a better future.


Yours fraternally,


Mick Whelan

General Secretary

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