Mick's Column


Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

20202019 - 2018 - 2017201620152014  - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

Other archived columns:  2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005


HS2 Should Go Ahead


February 2020


I've been reminding people that it was the trade unions that formed the Labour Party and most working men only got the vote because of the women's suffrage movement which removed property requirements for men and allowed women over 30 to vote.


This led to the election of the first trade union MPs who formed the party, under the auspices of the unions, and, for the first time, gave working people a voice in Parliament.


We now have five years in opposition and the chance to choose a leader and deputy leader to take us from opposition into government. One of the benefits of union membership, and of being in the political fund, is that you get a say in who that might be. The executive committee will shortly be deciding, after conversations have taken place with all the candidates, who we endorse and, as always, we urge you to use your vote.


We took the time to contribute our views to the much-vaunted Williams Rail Review, but it is concerning that the Prime Minister, and industry stakeholders, were saying its recommendations would be adopted before the report was even published. This does not auger well for future engagement but we are not surprised; this is a Prime Minister who, as Mayor of London, hid from and did not engage with trade unions.


The Oakervee report says the cost of HS2 will balloon to £106bn; but it should still go ahead. £7bn has already been spent, Andy Burnham and other nothern leaders say it should not be truncated, and upgrading northern Victorian infrastrucutre is not the answer. HS2 is the only way to deliver real capacity. We need it to deliver a boost to construction, the economy, and to be at the forefront of a green revolution.


I upset a few people by saying we are against forced labour, indenture, or modern slavery, by being denied the right to strike. This was deliberate. It is chosen, forceful language that reflects the strong opinions of all those I have met in our industry and elsewhere (without the industrial language) about our position. If this is what it takes to have the voice of train drivers heard, we will not apologise for doing so. The impact on industrial relations will be counterproductive and we will do what you have told us to do to defend our rights.


Thank you. Your passion, solidarity and unity invigorates us for the battles ahead.


Your fraternally,


Mick Whelan, General Secretary


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