After committing one of the most shameful acts of betrayal in recent trade union history by supporting GTR, the DfT and this Tory government in extending driver only operation (DOO) for a pot of money ASLEF are now trying to deflect the responsibility for their betrayal and the serious detriment it will cause the travelling public, rail workers and most shockingly of all the disabled ,elderly and vulnerable onto the RMT.
An article written by an ASLEF Executive Council member, Marz Colombini, states the following:
“Contrary to the view that some have expressed, acceptance of the resolution package has in no way whatsoever contributed to the demise of the guard on Southern services. The role of the guard had already been conceded, not by ASLEF but by our sister union who advised their guard members to sign new contracts of employment transferring them to the role of on board supervisor. Having encouraged their members to take on this new role, they then refused to recognise that role and in doing so left those members unrepresented.
However what this agreement will deliver is an increase in the OBS establishment and additional recruitment into the grade. It will also ensure that those in the OBS grade will be employed on full contracts rather than zero hours or other precarious models. So rather than the guards, who had already been conceded, being sold out we have gone some way the strengthening the grade that remains.
We do not pretend that this is an ideal outcome, and we’ve been very clear to the company and the DfT that we do not see or accept this as a template for the industry, but we do see it as a specific resolution to a specific dispute and the best that could have been achieved under the circumstances. It has been a long and drawn out process with a series of very difficult decisions both for those who worked to deliver the resolution package and much more importantly for the ASLEF members who had to choose how to vote on it.”
If you intend to rewrite history it is unwise to do so when the truth is still fresh in so many peoples memories. I will address each of the three points made by Marz Colombini as he attempts to smear the RMT:
1) “The role of the guard had already been conceded, not by ASLEF but by our sister union who advised their guard members to sign new contracts of employment transferring them to the role of on board supervisor.”
The recommendation by the RMT that conductors should sign contracts moving to the OBS role changed members’ terms and conditions but had no effect on the dispute. Once Southern drivers were instructed by ASLEF to operate all services DOO from 2nd January 2017 it became immaterial if the new contracts were signed or not. If the new contracts had not been signed the second person would still not have been on the trains in a safety critical capacity and services would still have operated without the need for them to be on board. The only way that the transfer of the conductors to the OBS role could have had a damaging effect on the dispute, once ASLEF had conceded DOO, would have been if those transferring between roles were unable to continue with the industrial action. The RMT’s legal team correctly advised that this would not be the case hence why both conductors and OBS have been able to continue taking industrial action since 2nd January 2017. xxx note to ASLEF members: this shows that accurate legal advice that supports industrial action is available should a union wish to access it.
2) “Having encouraged their members to take on this new role, they then refused to recognise that role and in doing so left those members unrepresented.”
The RMT has since the start of this dispute been trying to negotiate responsibly with GTR to ensure that if a new role was to be introduced that it would safeguard Safety ,Accessibility and Security on the network. The RMT rightly took the stand that it would be a betrayal not only of the travelling public but also of their sisters and brothers in ASLEF, with whom they had signed a statement of intent in November 2015, if they were to recognise a grade which allowed for trains to run without the guarantee of a second person on board. The RMT is not concerned with what the role is called but with ensuring that it is a role that protects rail safety to the benefit of the travelling public and rail staff. ASLEF have been desperate for the RMT to recognise the OBS role in its present form so that they could claim that it was the RMT who broke the pact of 2015, which they would then use to justify their own shameful sell out.
The vast majority of ex-conductors working in the OBS role fully support the RMT in its efforts to secure the safety critical responsibilities for the role along with the guarantee that services will not operate without a second person on board, before recognising the OBS role and ending the dispute. The RMT’s efforts in this regard have been constantly undermined by ASLEF who have been prepared to use safety, accessibility, and security as mere bargaining chips to secure a pay rise with which to bribe Southern drivers and therefore enable the union to extricate itself from the dispute on Southern Rail.
3) “However what this agreement will deliver is an increase in the OBS establishment and additional recruitment into the grade. It will also ensure that those in the OBS grade will be employed on full contracts rather than zero hours or other precarious models. So rather than the guards, who had already been conceded, being sold out we have gone some way the strengthening the grade that remains.”
The truth is that ASLEF have negotiated nothing in this deal apart from a wage rise which they have funded by betraying rail travellers including the disabled, elderly, vulnerable and their fellow rail workers.
Every advancement they claim to have made with regard to the OBS role had already been conceded by the company in their meetings with the RMT. This is not a matter of opinion it is a matter of documented fact. On 16th May 2017 GTR sent out a formal offer to the RMT which, as well as confirming that OBS would be on full time contracts, also confirmed the safety role of the OBS including: evacuation, fire, use of GSMR Radio in emergency, passenger safety security, faults, pass com reset, hot weather contingency, and if Safety Critical Medical passed they would have a company track safety qualification and provide dispatch assistance in degraded conditions. Every improvement ASLEF claim to have secured through their extensive negotiations had already been sent out by GTR to the RMT in the form of an offer months previously.
This proves beyond any shadow of doubt that the claim by Marz Colombni that the months ASLEF spent in negotiations was not just about the pay rise, but was also about securing an enhanced safety role for the OBS, is utter nonsense, IT WAS ALWAYS ABOUT THE MONEY. ASLEF undermined the RMT by instructing their drivers to operate services DOO AND accepting a job description for the OBS which the RMT had already rejected as inadequate.
There were a number of points in the company document the RMT could not accept as they compromised safety, accessibility and security on the network. These included, amongst others, no assurance of a guaranteed second person on every train without exception and the introduction of a Company Track Safety Qualification as opposed to the industry recognised PTS Qualification.
It must now be crystal clear to everyone, even the most ardent fans of ASLEF, that the reason they did not want the RMT involved in the months of negotiations at the TUC and ACAS was because they were intent in undermining the RMT’s fight for a safe railway. They wanted the opportunity that being in the talks alone afforded them to sell the “family silver” so that they could accumulate a big enough pot of money with which to bribe Southern drivers to end the dispute.
To ensure there is no way left for anyone within ASLEF to continue to try and deflect the blame on to others, let’s remember ASLEF’s proud boasts at the outset of this dispute:
“So there is no dubiety it is the policy of my organisation that there will be no agreement to extend DOO anywhere and even if DCO is agreed by other trade unions we will not be agreeing this method of operation either.”
“We are completely opposed to Driver Only Operation and its forms, including Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) / Drive Door Operation (DDO), throughout the network.”
“We firmly believe this method of operation is less safe for passengers and the workforce and our unions will not agree to the extension of DOO or DCO/DDO under any circumstances”.
ASLEF’s reputation after their capitulation in this dispute is on a par with Nick Clegg’s, whose name is now synonymous with treachery and betrayal after his infamous tuition fees sell out , when leader of the Lib Dems. Both gave a cast iron guarantee to fight for a cause then when their false promises had served their personal objectives they betrayed all those who had supported them. It is interesting that Marz Colombini chooses to lift justifications for ASLEF’s actions straight from the Nick Clegg handbook:
“This may not have been the policy my party wanted”.
“I made absolutely sure that it wouldn’t turn a degree into a luxury for the very rich”.
“Clegg then argued his party had implemented a series of reforms to the original policy that made the policy far less punishing to the poor.”
“We do not pretend that this is an ideal outcome.”
“So rather than the guards, who had already been conceded, being sold out we have gone some way to strengthening the grade that remains”.
With the enthusiasm ASLEF’s National Executive have shown in choosing to embrace both Nick Clegg’s excuses and ethical standards it will come as no surprise that there is talk of them releasing a film before Christmas called “CLEGGIES ON A TRAIN“, it is XXX RATED but don’t be alarmed they don’t take their clothes off they are just kissing their credibility goodbye.
It’s important that all rail staff who care about Safety, Accessibility and Security don’t become “CLEGGIES ON A TRAIN” but instead support the RMT’s fight to “KEEP A SAFETY QUALIFIED SECOND PERSON ON EVERY TRAIN WITHOUT EXCEPTION”.
OUR SOLIDARITY HAS GOT US THIS FAR,
IF WE STAY STRONG AND UNITED WE WILL WIN