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It's Not About The Doors!

Exposing DfT/Govia Lies

Month

June 2017

DISPUTE UPDATE

The suspension of ASLEF’s work to rule amid rumours of disharmony in their ranks and their decision to discuss  the imposition of DOO at the same time as their pay talks should be a concern to everyone  who want to secure a safe railway.

From the outset of this dispute Southern Drivers have been adamant that talks to address the issue of the imposition of DOO must be kept separate from the issue of their Pay Deal. It was recognised that any resolution to the DOO issue must not be seen as a trade off for a pay rise or improvements in Terms and Conditions. The message put out to the travelling public from both the RMT and ASLEF was that this dispute was about Rail Safety not about greedy Unions holding the public to ransom to achieve inflation busting pay deals.

The justification for this sudden change of direction seems confused at best. The reasons given are that there was a sudden realisation that their bargaining hand was getting weaker as they were doing DOO across the network without any agreement in place. The argument that their bargaining position was getting weaker is difficult to understand when they were only days away from the start of an overtime ban. For months there have been complaints by Drivers that their Executive was not calling action, yet when the Executive eventually sanction action the local depots call for urgent talks with the Company resulting in the action being suspended. This action, had it gone ahead, even without 100% support, would have applied tremendous pressure to GTR the DFT and Tory politicians about to defend marginal seats on the 8th of June. This was a very real opportunity to compel GTR to negotiate responsibly. The action would have considerably strengthened ASLEF’s bargaining position not weakened it. GTR achieving the suspension of the action has handed Tory politicians in marginal constituencies a “get out of jail free card” which they will repay with the introduction of legislation to further restrict the ability of Rail Unions to both protect their members and the safety of the rail network.

It is also hard to understand the blind panic that ensued when Reps were shown the new cameras the Company are installing. It can come as no surprise to anyone that cameras are available that will produce crystal clear images. Why this revelation should be considered as the “straw that broke the camels back” of ASLEF’s resistance to the imposition of DOO, beggars belief. To the best of my knowledge the cameras do not allow Drivers to see through people on crowded platforms (according to the Company passenger numbers have doubled in the last twelve years and set to continue growing), nor do they sober up drunks, or anticipate the actions of the less predictable in society including young children or deal with the many other issues which occur at the platform/train interface. We should not feel threatened by the installation of the best possible cameras we should be demanding them. Cameras giving crystal clear images should be seen as a benefit to safe train dispatch but it also needs to be recognised that cameras alone do not provide adequate safeguards at the platform/train interface due to the increased passenger numbers that have been seen in recent years and the increases predicted in the future.

It would appear that a combination of the many months of ASLEF membership getting no positive leadership from their Executive and the attacks their Reps were subjected to at their conference two weeks ago, over rest day working, has led them to this position where they lack the confidence to continue the dispute. The emails sent to their Executive asking for the imposition of DOO to be dealt with collectively with Pay Talks and T&C’s were not a statement of strength rather they were sent in the (MISTAKEN) belief that any strength they had was ebbing away and they required a quick solution to their problems. Whatever the intention of the resolution it’s impact will be to contaminate our dispute in peoples minds, particular in the minds of the travelling public, our fight to secure a safe railway will be labelled as a fight that was “ALL ABOUT THE MONEY“.

It is this perceived lack of strength that has led to this position being adopted, a perceived lack of strength that is being cultivated by some in the ASLEF ranks to ensure Pay Talks take priority over the fight for a safe railway. ASLEF Drivers still have tremendous power they just need to find the unity and courage to use it. What we as RMT members must  hope for is that some of the many leaders that are evident within the driving grade will step forward to support their local Reps. This would hopefully enable everyone to recognise the importance that talks regarding the imposition of DOO are kept entirely separate from pay talks and that any proposal put out to referendum will ensure that we are operating a Safe, Accessible and Secure Rail Network by guaranteeing a second Safety qualified person on the trains in question without exception.

THE WAY FORWARD

It is time for GTR to sit down with both Unions to sort the mess out. The present situation is unacceptable. On Monday the 5th of June, to enable them to avert an overtime ban by the Drivers, GTR have agreed not to run any train, away from the Brighton Main Line, without a second person on board.  To enable this, GTR have decided to remove staff off Brighton Main Line services to ensure Coastway services are covered. With the present level of security risk, particularly in the London area, this should be of great concern to everyone. It is an example of GTR firefighting problems rather than sitting down and negotiating responsibly to achieve a long term desirable outcome which addresses the risks faced by today’s rail network.

There can no longer be any doubt regarding the absolute necessity for a second safety qualified person on the trains, the debate that needs to take place is around how this is achieved along with the timescale required to introduce it in a responsible manner and the skill set that the second person requires to adequately meet the demands of today’s rail network.

The need for us to be successful in our fight to achieve a Safe Accessible and Secure Rail Network becomes more important each passing day. For us to achieve our goal we need maintain the solidarity that has taken us this far.

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IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE MONEY

Yesterday ASLEF put forward their latest initiative to resolve their dispute with GTR. This latest initiative is apparently driven from a local level rather than nationally which makes it all the more concerning. It involves suspending their proposed overtime ban for a fortnight to allow talks to take place with GTR on their pay deal and their Terms and Conditions. These talks will take place at the same time as discussions on giving GTR an agreement on DOO working.

Much will be made of the agreement reached that, for the next two weeks, no train will run without an OBS on board apart from on the Brighton Mainline. Many will want to paint this as a positive development rather than recognise the real issue that this brings about. Aslef are going to be seen to agreeing to increase the number of trains running DOO on the Brighton Mainline at a time when security has never been a bigger factor. I asked, in an earlier email, for you to consider the consequences of an incident happening on a packed DOO commuter train between stations, the impossibility of the driver alone trying to deal with the aftermath. That packed commuter train will now be running DOO sanctioned by ASLEF. It will be running without the deterrent that a second on board member of staff provides or the added safety their security checks provide. How many pieces of silver makes that acceptable?

The assurance that no train will operate without an OBS on board, apart from the Brighton Mainline, means little when no skill set has been agreed for the role of the OBS. The Company as yet have not even agreed to a method of ensuring a clear understanding exists between the OBS and Driver that the accessibility checks have been completed prior to the Driver locking the doors, never mind on issues such as PTS or Safety Qualifications. How many pieces of silver makes that acceptable?

There can be little doubt that by agreeing to address their Wage Deal and Terms and Conditions at the same time as the extension of DOO, will ensure that Drivers are well rewarded for their cooperation. It is only right that Train Drivers are able to achieve as good a deal as is possible on their wages and T&Cs, however this should be achieved in the correct manner. There can be no excuse for holding talks for resolving the issue of the extension of DOO alongside talks to discuss Wages and T&C’s The real danger is that this deal, rather than being financed by GTR’s profits, will be at the cost to a Safe Accessible and Secure rail network and at the expense of the jobs of Cleaners, Gateline, Ticket Office, Platform Staff etc. Jobs will disappear to finance the deal and other jobs will be farmed out to agencies, real jobs replaced by zero hour contracted employment. The de-staffing of the railway and the removal of full time staff to be replaced by causal labour has a very real impact on the Safety, Accessibility and Security of the network and turns railway stations into playgrounds for rogues and vandals. Rail staff rather than GTR profits will finance this deal. How many pieces of silver makes that acceptable?

If this initiative is being led by our Sister and Brothers in the driving grade, then they are being seriously misguided. A policy based on the principle of “grabbing what we can when we can and to hell with the consequences for ourselves and others” is not going to bring them the long term benefits that they seek.

If they require inspiration to enable them to find a better road to go down, they need look no further than yourselves. Despite ASLEF being tied up in the Courts and GTR waging a ruthless campaign against your Conditions (parking , travel etc.) you refused to betray your principles, you refused to betray your Sisters and Brothers in the Driving Grade, you choose to continue the fight for a Safe, Accessible and Secure rail network. The Company tried to bribe you with £2000, guaranteed you jobs throughout this franchise and beyond but still you refused to betray your principles, still you refused to betray your Sisters and Brothers, you choose to keep up the fight to secure a Safe Accessible and Secure rail network. You knew that with the Drivers unable to fight, that if you sold out then the Traincrew fight to achieve a Safe Accessible and Secure Rail Network would have been lost .

If Drivers Pay talks and DOO talks are to happen at the same time then the only winners will be GTR. A short term boost to their wages paid for by the jobs of their Sisters and Brothers in the Company, not by GTR’s profits, and by allowing GTR to succeed with their attack on the Safety, Accessibility and Security of the network will in the long term be disastrous for the Drivers.

With the prospect of Government legislation in the very near future to shackle the Unions in the Rail industry, solidarity is going to be essential. Solidarity can only be achieved by ensuring that we protect the jobs of all grades within the Company and that we all take responsibility for ensuring these jobs where they still exist do not end up being filled by causal labour. This solidarity to be successful will need to encompass more than just us within the rail industry. We need to show to those outside the industry that ensuring that we keep the network safe in times of incidents, accessible to all those that rely on it and secure for everyone to travel on are our long term priorities and not just bargaining chips to be exchanged for short term gains.

Since this dispute started in April 2016 we have for the majority of the time had to stand alone. Should this latest initiative mark the end of ASLEF’S involvement in the fight to protect the rail network, then so be it. It will certainly galvanise GTR to commit further attacks on us and we should be ready for this to happen, but it will not end our fight.

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