A Message from Mick: Labour's commitments to train drivers

06 December 2019

A message from Mick Whelan, general secretary, to every ASLEF member:

I firmly believe that a Labour government benefits the whole of society and we should vote in the interests of everybody, not just ourselves. So please forgive me, because I’m going to be a tad parochial for a moment.

You have probably already heard about the headline policy offers from Labour at this election. Investment in our NHS, schools, and housing, as well as a huge extension of workers’ rights. You’ll almost certainly have taken an interest in their policies on rail such as nationalisation, electrification, and HS2 to Scotland. There are also promises to expand rail freight and invest in regional rail such as re-opening branch lines and building a Crossrail for the north. And, of course, the huge offer to passengers of a 33% cut in regulated fares. These are great policies for our industry.

But let’s dig deeper. Because here are five commitments ASLEF has worked on, that will directly improve your working life:

1) For many years we have argued against any extension of driver only operation. Not only is DOO bad for passengers, it means that our members are often left to work alone. We’ve told the party that it can be an unsafe practice for passengers and rail staff. They listened. Which is why the 2019 manifesto states that a Labour government will:

“Ensure safe staffing levels and end driver only operation.”

2) Cab conditions are a real problem for our members. This issue that was brought up again at our conference this year. So we spoke to the Shadow Transport team. They listened. And we have this commitment:

“We commit that a Labour government will work with train drivers, through their union, to investigate and develop minimum standards for train driving cabs.”

3) The Labour manifesto promises to introduce maximum workplace temperatures. Great news for all working people. But minimum temperatures already exist and there are exemptions. We explained this to the party. They listened. And that’s why the workers’ rights manifesto states:

“We will also introduce a maximum temperature for workplaces, closing loopholes to ensure all workplaces are covered by health and safety legislation; for example, drivers’ cabs.”

4) The lack of toilet facilities is a big problem for our members. Particularly in the freight sector, and particularly for women. We told the party. They listened. That’s why the workers’ right manifesto also states:

“Many workers – bus, lorry, and train drivers, construction, warehousing, agriculture, and call centre workers - are regularly denied basics such a rest, access to toilets and toilet breaks. Our Royal Commission will make sure everyone at work has access to basic facilities such as toilets and toilet breaks.”

5) Care responsibilities and shift work are difficult to juggle. Labour wants to address problems around access to childcare for working people. We explained that whilst financial restrictions are a huge problem, for many of our members, it’s the fact that so much childcare is still geared towards conventional working hours. They listened. Which is why the manifesto states:

“Labour will also work to extend childcare provision for 1-year-olds and to ensure that childcare provision accommodates the working patterns of all parents.”

So not only will the Labour Party address the many societal issues we face, here are five core commitments that will improve your everyday working life. And that’s why the Labour Party affiliation matters so much. It’s through this affiliation we can push the policies that matter to our membership. And as everything above demonstrates, they do listen!

So if you want to end DOO, get a commitment to better cab conditions, maximum working temperatures, access to toilets and better provision of childcare for shift workers, vote Labour on Thursday 12 December. 



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