Today has seen the first of two days of strike action on Southern rail as we continue our fight to ensure that we can work in an environment free from harassment and bullying and that we can provide a service that prioritises Safety, Accessibility and Security.
This afternoon we have also had confirmation that the majority of Southern drivers have chosen to ignore the plight of the disabled along with the detrimental effects DOO has on rail safety and security to join forces with GTR to help them implement their plans.
We have had to face many days like this during our protracted dispute. When the dispute began back in April 2016 ASLEF were pledging that they would be leading the fight for a safe railway by opposing any extension of DOO. The reality has of course been very different. During the past 20 months that we having been fighting this dispute ASLEF, for one reason or another, have failed to make it onto the battlefield. They have been left looking like playground bullies who for a long time strutted about bossing the playground however when they were eventually challenged they turned tail and slunk away. They have surrendered their principles, surrendered their policies, disregarded the disabled and have voted to ratify a method of work which they acknowledge to be unsafe, all to secure a inflation busting pay rise .Their actions will be viewed by many as an affront to Trade Unionism and justification for the insults thrown at them by Peter Wilkinson. Some drivers may decide that it will lessen their shame if we also give up our dispute so we must ensure that we don’t allow them to undermine our solidarity. We must not allow ourselves to be drawn into thinking that there is an easy answer to our problems.
I have always pledged to be honest with you in these emails and the truth at this time is that we must continue the fight. The harassment and bullying I refer to is not something which may happen in the future, it is happening now. Take for example “targets” for ticket sales. This is something that we have successfully opposed over the years. Not to defend those failing to do their jobs but to ensure that staff were not put at risk by feeling forced into putting revenue before their personal safety. Here is a quote from an email management are sending out to staff Oct/Nov 2017: “As you know I now have to monitor all revenue sales and numbers of tickets to ensure all the team are reaching an average based on overall figures, this average is 15 tickets a day and £100 or more a day.“
This management dictate will lead to an inevitable increase in assaults as staff try to comply with the company’s demands. Then to stop their assault figures going through the roof the company will tell staff who report assaults that they are not suited their role and manage them out of their job, other staff then refrain from reporting assaults for fear of losing their jobs. This has been tried by the company previously. We needed a strong union to protect members when the company tried this in the past and we will require the same strength if we are going to be able to address this style of management going forward. If we do nothing staff who get assaulted will be managed out of a job, staff who are made ill by the excessive enforced overtime and the negative working environment will be managed out of a job. It is only by being part of a strong well organised union that we will get the protection necessary to ensure we can work in a positive environment.
We must ensure that this announcement by ASLEF that Southern drivers have ended their dispute with GTR by voting to accept a pay deal linked to DOO, galvanises our resolve to ensure a successful conclusion to this dispute and resist the temptation of the “easy option”, which some will wish to pedal at this time. We must recognise that it is only our continued solidarity that will enable us to achieve our just demands.
There are just under 200 Southern drivers who rejected the offer because they recognised the damage that it does to the rights of the disabled, elderly and vulnerable and the impact it has on rail safety and security. These drivers face a stark choice. They can either sit in mess rooms declaring that “they didn’t vote for it” or they can take positive action. Positive action means taking out membership of the RMT for the remainder of the dispute and fighting for their principles and beliefs. It is not enough to declare “I didn’t vote for it ” while passively accepting the wage rise. We need everyone who is disgusted by the treatment that the disabled elderly and vulnerable are now having to face and the serious implications this agreement has for safety and security to stand up and say
“NOT IN MY NAME”
THE SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEMS WILL NOT BE FOUND IN SURRENDER BUT IN SOLIDARITY. EVERYONE WHO RECOGNISES THAT THE DISABLED, ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE DESERVE TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT AND THAT THE RAIL NETWORK NEEDS TO BE SAFE, ACCESSIBLE AND SECURE NEED TO STAND TOGETHER.
We must recognise this as the start of the next phase of our dispute. We must redouble our efforts to persuade our fellow frontline staff to stand up and fight for what they know is right. We must redouble our efforts in campaigning alongside the disability groups. We must redouble our efforts to galvanise political support. We must redouble our efforts to inform the travelling public regarding the very real threat that GTR’s plans pose to safety , accessibility and security.
IF WE STAY STRONG AND STAND UNITED WE WILL WIN