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


Heart of recovery


August 2020


Daily I spend most of my time talking about the pandemic, its impact, what we need to do, and arguing about the safest and best ways to deal with the myriad issues that continually crop up. To add to the lexicon of phrases that are grating on me, along with 'ramping up', is 'the new normal'. For many, including the government, it looks like a rush to the old normal.


We have a vested interest in a successful transport sector and have worked, with sister trade unions, companies, and government, to increase capacity to encompass a rise in passenger traffic to maintain the various steps in social distancing. But as the Prime Minister encourages people back to work and to use public transport (between 9am and 4pm) from 1 August I am fearful, as with the pictures we saw when pubs reopened, and beaches were inundated, that such mixed messaging will be detrimental. If this backfires the message of key workers running essential services for key workers and a greater good will be much diminished.


We want the economy to recover and only real investment will drive the growth we need, otherwise wholesale unemployment will be a reality. Our industry, some experts say, will take five years for passenger growth to return. I am not so sure as we were previously oversubscribed and unable to deal with population growth. Travel patterns will change, and the model may not be the Williams approach, but we will campaign for rail to be at the heart of the opportunity to build the green economy that was so popular and right before the pandemic.


We have been trialing bubbles where drivers work together after testing to facilitate in-cab training for handling and traction conversions and those pilots have been successful so companies are seeking to do their own reviewable trials. Work has also been done to run a pilot for the needs of the sandite and other needs and other workshops are reporting back on the industry efforts in partnership to find solutions to safe working in confined spaces. Previous work had already been completed on socially-distanced classroom and static training. The measures are all reviewable and at this time there is no intention to move away from our policy and best practice in bulletin eight.


There will be many challenges, but we will not allow opportunism by bad actors to unreasonably undermine our terms and conditions or agreements. Finally, my thanks to all the branch secretaries, reps, officers, EC, and staff for going the extra yard for us all. Please be safe and well.



Yours fraternally


Mick Whelan, general secretary


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