ASLEF at TUC Congress 2019

11 September 2019

This week ASLEF sent a delegation to TUC Congress in Brighton.


The annual congress is the meeting of the trade union movement, seeing delegates from all unions coming together to debate issues of policy, politics, equality and the workplace.


ASLEF's delegates were well represented, speaking on the platform at at fringe meetings on topics including industrial strategy, education, hate crime, Colombia and Palestine.


General Secretary Mick Whelan moved the first motion of congress, on Sunday afternoon, on the need for a green transport system.

Delegate Tracy Whitbread spoke in support of our composite motion calling for a comprehensive new industrial strategy, with workers and a green new deal at its heart, and Mark Prenter spoke in support of a composite motion on the climate crisis, supporting calls for working people to join the school strike for climate with solidarity actions.

EC President Dave Calfe moved composite 13, our motion on trade unionism in the school curriculum. With a steady decline in trade union membership, particularly among young people, we called for trade union history and the nature of collectivism in the workplace to be taught in schools.


On Monday lunchtime ASLEF held our own fringe meeting, with the Fire Brigades Union and Professional Footballers Association. The meeting, Is is still a man's world?, saw a female train driver, firefighter and footballer discuss their experiences working in male-dominated industries and what we can all do as trade unionists to end gender segregation in the workplace. 

Deborah Reay, Chair of ASLEF's Women's Representative Committee, chaired the event and was joined by footballer Fern Whelan and firefighter Maria Buck.


The discussion was wide-ranging, covering some of the key issues women face in the workplace - everything from toilet provision to consideration for the menopause, and the fit of uniforms - and some of the ways things are changing and could be further improved. The panel all agreed that having women in senior leadship in the workplace and in trade unions can make a difference, as well as avoiding gender stereotyping of job roles in advertising and the media.


There have been improvements in faciltiies and women's experiences in traditionally male-dominated workplaces but there is plenty more to be done. To find out more about the current situation in the train driving grade, click here to read our new report, On track with diversity: 2019 edition which looks at the levels of diversity in the industry and the work being done to improve this.


Ahead of the fringe meeting, Deborah Reay wrote for the Morning Star on the need to challenge stereotypes about gender and diversity in the workplace.


Elsewhere at congress, General Secretary Mick Whelan spoke at fringe meetings held by Justice for Colombia and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, raising key international issues for trade unionists and human rights defenders. Mick also seconded a motion calling on affiliated unions to support Justice for Colombia, and on the UK Government to continue to pressure Colombian leadership to deliver on the promises made in the country's hard won peace deal.

In the equalities debate, delegate Darran Brown, who is a member of the ASLEF LGBT+ representative committee and represents the union on the TUC's LGBT+ committee, spoke about the need to be vigilant and reject homophobic and transphobic hate speech and hate crime in our society.

Congress also heard from keynote speakers including TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn MP, Shadow Minister for Business, Energey and Industrial Strategy Laura Pidcock MP, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (via video link) and Sir Keir Starmer, Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.


Jeremy Corbyn and Laura Pidcock spoke about the next Labour government's plans for a radical shift in workers' rights, including bringing in provisions for sectoral collective bargaining, online and workplace balloting, and repealing the recent legislation that makes it harder for workers to organise collectively as part of a union.

Mick Whelan commented on Jeremy's speech, "What a breath of fresh air! A politician who wants to stand up for the workers of this country, who wishes to protect the electorate by giving rights and protections to all. This proposed legislation is long overdue and, by creating a better world of work and safety, will act as a driver for the economy and give strength to building a bright future."


Mick also wrote a piece for the Morning Star on the need to invest in rail to tackle climate change.

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