Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Why I Feel Vindicated By the ASLEF Leadership

I would like to congratulate the ASLEF leadership for their decision, published in the previous edition of the Journal, to become active in the franchising process.

Of course, it is not that likely that the government would actually allow us as a trade union to be instrumental in the running of any such franchise, however I do applaud the move towards such a campaigning strategy.

It is with a sense of vindication that I write this letter, as I proposed the exact same strategy when standing for election to the Executive Committee last year. I spoke at length on this issue in a number of branch meetings across District 1 during the election, and the idea was very well received.

It makes sense that the communities who are served by the railways are allowed to have a stake in the direction in which their operation is taken. ASLEF is just such a community. We are a community of highly trained, proud and professional Train Drivers who know where the current system is going wrong through our own daily experiences.

Co-operative's running franchises would remove the embedded obsession with profit, profit and more profit, and instead allow a greater focus on investment in and improvements to operations, safety, ergonomic cab design, social responsibility, customer care, pay, terms and conditions, and so on.

This is also guaranteed to garner substantial press interest if handled the right way, not only from the screaming doom merchants in the Daily Mail et al, but also from the more sympathetic news outlets.

No doubt some would see such an initiative as 'inmates running the asylum' I however see it more as an industry which is currently drowning itself in a sea of non competent management lending itself a chance at grabbing a life raft by drawing on the skills of the professional men and women that keep Britain's railways moving each day, and keep them safe.

I have been saying for an awfully long time that ASLEF needs a much higher media profile than we have currently. Bob Crow is not the voice of the railways, and it is a tragedy that ASLEF should allow the massed media to cast him as such without taking steps to redress the balance.

In order to achieve this we need innovative campaigning strategies, and proactive leadership from those whose wages we pay.

Tradition is a great teacher, and the status quo can be an able guardian of important achievements, but we need to do things better, we need to do them more effectively and efficiently, and we need to be much more aggressive and robust in getting the message across to politicians, the travelling public, and indeed our sister unions.

ASLEF is the only sensible choice for professional Train Drivers. We cannot however, allow ideology and dogma to get in the way of showing people why we are the only sensible choice.

If this initiative is the first welcome step towards that long awaited higher media presence, and modern, innovative campaigning that is fit and focussed on achieving and excelling for a 21st century membership, in a 21st century industry, I for one certainly welcome it, and I will obligingly offer my time and support in pursuit of such an aim, no matter how overdue it may be.

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