Queen's Speech

19 December 2019

ASLEF utterly condemns the Grant Shapps plan - revealed in the Queen's speech at the state opening of Parliament this morning - to curtail the right of train drivers, and other railway workers, to take industrial action.


Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers' union, said: "The right to strike is a fundamental human right, recognized in every democracy in the free world. To try and curtail our right to take industrial action, as outlined today, is not just an abuse of our rights as citizens of a free and democratic country, it is something I know the employers in our industry don't want, either.


"Because this law, if it is passed, will only worsen, and not improve, industrial relations in our industry. That is why, privately, employers say it is a stupid idea by a new government that has no idea of how to run a railway."


The Shapps plan will mean that, even when trade union members have jumped through all the hoops and over all the high hurdles placed in front of us by the most draconian anti-unions laws in the Western world, they will no longer have the right to strike.


Mick added: "This is a declaration of war, by the Tory government, on transport workers. And it is, I think, the thin end of the wedge. Because if this government succeeds in getting this legislation through, then they will try the same tactic against other groups of workers. It will be rail today, and other industries tomorrow. That is Boris Johnson's threat.


"No trade unionist takes industrial action lightly, but we need that option to prevent bad employers riding roughshod over our working conditions and safety. I'm afraid this idea shows that this right-wing authoritarian Tory government sees transport workers as the enemy, not as stakeholders in the rail industry."


There are also problematic safety concerns around the concept of a minimum service provision. "Grant Shapps tells us his law will force our members to provide a 'bare-bones service' during industrial action. Yet the number of passengers won't go down. So we'll end up with mass overcrowding on platforms and on board trains when our railway is already running at capacity. Our members' first duty is to keep passengers safe. And they will not be party to the dangerous running of services."


Mick concluded: "Our members love our industry. ASLEF's priority is to improve the lives of our members and ensure a successful, growing and reliable railway. We never want to disrupt passengers. But if the Transport Secretary and this Tory government want to start a war with rail staff, our members are more than prepared to fight it and win."


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