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.