At a time when ASLEF are selling out on rail safety and accessibility, why is there no condemnation of their actions from the Labour Party? Equally worrying is the revelation that the Labour Party has been fully aware since March that Peter Wilkinson was under investigation for alleged conflict of interest by the National Audit Office but again failed to speak out. A Labour Party which has reinvented itself by claiming that they stand for a new style of politics must now give some answers. 

Why have they failed to make public this investigation into Peter Wilkinson and the role he played in GTR being awarded the contract? Why do they remain silent when Mick Whelan ASLEF General Secretary and member of the Labour Party’s National Executive is making deals with GTR which put at risk the safety of both  the travelling public and rail workers and removes the right from disabled customers to access rail services like everyone else as enshrined in the Equality Act.

ASLEF’s policy opposing DOO was laid out in a letter to the Transport Select Committee. The first two points in that letter are:

1. In our submission to the Committee in May 2016 ASLEF stated our opposition to Driver Only Operation (DOO) and its forms, including Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) and Driver Door Operation (DDO) across the British rail network. We firmly believe this method of operation is less safe for passengers and the workforce and we will not agree to the extension of DOO, DCO or DDO.

2. We draw attention to the safety implications of DOO which have been highlighted over the last 12 months with incidents at Hayes, South Croydon and Wickham where the absence of a guard has compromised passenger safety and the passenger rail experience. We would further contend that vulnerable passengers are reassured by a members of staff on the train particularly at a time when sexual assaults on the railway are at their highest ever levels.

Mick Whelan also laid out clearly his union’s policy on disabled access, in a Guardian interview on the 14th of January 2017:

“The whole basis of the industry is ‘step on and go’. The idea that sectors of our community should have to book in advance when others don’t is anathema to me. Everybody should have the same access and rights to get on and off a train.”

Aslef’s National Policy and their reasons for having that policy therefore can be in no doubt.

The question the Labour Party needs to ask their National Executive member Mr Whelan is, if you know that DOO is less safe for customers and staff and discriminates against the disabled, why have you worked with GTR to bring forward an agreement that extends DOO on the Southern franchise and combined it with a 28.5% pay rise to try and bribe Southern drivers to except this DOO extension, which they have twice previously rejected?

The Labour Party also needs to answer why despite being aware of an investigation into Peter Wilkinson for alleged conflict of interests they failed to make it public, even when the conclusions were not  released in the summer as first planned. After attempts by the DFT to withhold the decision on GTR’s claim of “force majeure” until after the end of the industrial action, there will be suspicions surrounding the delayed publication of this investigation, particularly at a time Aslef are scrambling about with GTR desperately trying to force through an agreement to the detriment of the industry and its customers. 

There is no issue with trade unions helping to fund a political party which is going to represent the interests of the working people. No union however should be allowed to buy the silence of the Labour Party to enable it to work with an employer to bring in a method of work which, in their letter to the Transport Select Committee they state, is “less safe for passengers and the workforce” and which removes the right of the disabled to “turn up and go”.

If the Labour Party want to convince the public that this time they really do want to bring about a new style of politics then they need to explain why they failed to act on these  two issues. Failure to explain their lack of action will lead people to the conclusion that we have a Labour Party in the image of Michael Foot but with the honesty and principles of Tony Blair.

The RMT should write to the Labour Party to demand answers to these questions and encourage others to do likewise. A party which will expect our support at a General Election should not remain silent on these matters.