It is understandable with ASLEF recommending that their Southern drivers sell out on Safety, Accessibility and Security to achieve a 28.5% increase in salary, that questions will be asked with regard to the future of our dispute.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves why we voted to start this dispute back in April 2016. The cornerstone of this dispute has been to secure a second Safety Qualified Person on every train in the previous non DOO area. It is the second properly qualified person on the train service who provides for the safety of customers and staff, who ensures that our disabled and elderly customers can travel without having to book in advance and who is there to be a visible presence to reassure the vulnerable, deter anti social behaviour and to stop our trains been seen as a soft target by terrorists. These reasons are as valid today as they were back at the beginning of 2016

Present working conditions
I know many members are disgusted by the turns of duty that are being rostered. Shorter duties regularly get cancelled and get replaced by duties in excess of 10.5 hours and you then get given the bare minimum break between shifts leaving you exhausted. Regardless of the role you perform, OBS or conductor, you are aware that the company is operating without a concern for your welfare and if we were to give up the struggle this is exactly how things would remain.

The only way we can get these issues addressed is by ensuring that we stand together. It is only by remaining united that we will have the strong voice necessary to secure working conditions free from harassment and bullying and it is only by remaining united that we can help to bring about a Safe Accessible and Secure rail network.

WHY SHOULD WE KEEP FIGHTING? 

Giving up is not the easy answer it may seem. Giving up does not enable us to address any of our Terms and Conditions issues. Giving up does not give us a meaningful voice in our future role. Giving up does not secure a “turn up and go” service and on board assistance for the disabled, elderly and vulnerable.

Giving up will however ensure that we are forced to continue to work excessive enforced overtime. Giving up will ensure that the company will be able to attack those that are sick, with their new “fast track” MFA (Managing for attendance) Procedure (being introduced at present without agreement from the RMT or TSSA Unions). Giving up will ensure that we work in an environment which encourages harassment and bullying as the preferred style of management instead of a style of management that supports and motivates staff. Giving up will mean that the disabled and elderly will be forced off the rail network by having to book 24 hours in advance and by not being  guaranteed any assistance to help them during the journey especially at times of delays or serious incidents (a 28.5% pay increase suddenly means a driver can provide the necessary care). Giving up will mean a less safe rail service for customers and staff. Giving up will mean a less secure rail service with the destaffing of the network continuing leaving the stations and trains to become magnets for anti social behaviour and viewed as soft targets for terrorists. For these reasons GIVING UP IS NOT AN OPTION.

STRIKE ACTION ON THE 8TH AND 9TH OF NOVEMBER

To ensure that we can work in an environment free from harassment and bullying, an environment that will give us a say on our future terms and conditions and an environment that values our disabled and elderly customers and guarantees their right to access services without having to book in advance and providing them with the level of care they have the right to demand during their journey, we must ensure maximum support for the strike action on the 8th and 9th of November.

There will of course be a company letter sent out to members prior to the 8th/9th and it will in all likelihood contain a threat. We must make sure that we support each other so that any intimidation from the company does not break our solidarity. To go along with the threat will be the promise that should we end the dispute the company will look after our best interests.

Let’s look at their most recent commitment to looking after our best interests and how well they have done in fulfilling it. The company said that it was aware that those in the OBS grade were unhappy with their diagrams, so, prior to the October diagrams coming in to effect, OBS were selected from each depot to scrutinise them and implement improvements. This exercise has already been rendered meaningless. All that happens is that the daily diagrams are amended en masse especially at weekends and rewritten to suit the company. An attempt to gauge how many diagrams were being amended during the week as opposed to weekends, by looking at Brighton’s Daily sheets, was unsuccessful as the daily sheets for the 31st October and the 1st and 2nd of November showed all diagrams apart from the cover turns as being amended. It is unlikely that all diagrams were amended but it shows the chaos the company are in at present and the impact this has on working conditions. Amazingly the company still display a notice at the booking on point claiming they listened to staff and addressed their rostering issues.

The company will not address our legitimate grievances unless we stand together as part of an effective union. The OBS role cannot be recognised by the RMT until the end of the dispute. This however DOES NOT debar new OBS joining the RMT. What it means is that, if you are a  new OBS or someone like myself who has worked as a conductor for over 20 years before becoming an OBS, the RMT are not negotiating on our Terms and Conditions of Employment. We still get the rights to have union accompaniment/representation at any MFA or Disciplinary Hearings and still get access to all other union benefits including the Members’ Helpline and free legal advice. JOIN TODAY.

Our problems will not get resolved by the empty promises of the company but by having a strong well organised workforce in every depot and all depots supporting one another so that the Company can be held to account.

We must hope that the drivers refuse to give in to the bribery put forward by their union but whatever the outcome of their referendum we must ensure that we have picket lines at all seven depots on the 8th and 9th of November. Many drivers, as we know, are upset by the thought that they will have to leave disabled customers on platforms should this shoddy deal be accepted. There will be many drivers who feel that this offer is a breach of the promise made to the travelling public that the dispute would not be settled by money and who view the 28.5% pay offer as at the expense of the disabled, elderly and vulnerable. These drivers see this as a deplorable act by their union as they believe the disabled, elderly and vulnerable should have been able to look to ASLEF for support in retaining their rights to access rail services, not see their rights sold for a pay rise.

Other drivers will of course view the deal differently and it is important that we continue to respect the views of everyone. It is the responsibility of all of us that every individual must have the right to voice their opinions and be able to do so without the fear of harassment or intimidation as has been the case throughout this dispute. We must ensure that threats and intimidation are the tools of GTR and never get employed by us.

Any driver who cannot reconcile their personal beliefs with this offer and the damage they see it inflicting on others will only have our picket line to give them the opportunity to say “NOT IN MY NAME”.

Picket lines are therefore essential. If any depot is struggling with organising picket lines they should contact Head Office as I’m sure that there will be Officers/Executive Council Members who can assist.

IT IS TIME ONCE AGAIN FOR THE MANY LEADERS WE HAVE IN OUR RANKS TO STEP FORWARD AND GIVE CONFIDENCE TO THOSE WHO NEED SUPPORT. 

STAY STRONG STAND UNITED ON THE PICKET LINES AND WE WILL WIN

 

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