Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/460/1670
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
RAIL PRIVATISATION in the 1990s was an expensive and chaotic disaster. Railtrack has been replaced with Network Rail. Three private firms control all train leasing because they own all the trains and hundreds of staff spend all their time and millions of pounds trying to blame each other's firms for delays.
An Aslef member
On top of this, tens of thousands of railworkers face institutionalised insecurity.
Several franchises end in November 2007. The applicants for the new franchises are preparing their bids now. But the winners won't be announced until summer next year. So the unions won't know who to talk to till then.
Meanwhile, jobs, security of depots, mix of work at depots, pensions etc are all up in the air till then.
Here is a possible scenario for a railworker. You start work in the rail industry at 23 years old, and you are told by your employer that they have another three years of franchise and fully expect to win another franchise period. But they don't win and after three years you are with a new employer, boss two. This employer has a 15-year franchise but after for years decides they are not making enough money and hands the keys back to the government.
The government, boss three, hold on for two years in a desperate search for someone else to take over. The new boss, boss four, also has a 15-year franchise but it is subject to review after seven years to ensure targets are met.
Unfortunately targets are not met. Back to the government for another two years, boss five.
Then to a new firm who have a 15-year franchise, reviewed after seven years. But the government by now couldn't care less about targets and they sail through the full 15 years, boss six. Hallelujah.
By now you are about 54 years old, your head is spinning, you don't know which jacket to put on to go to work and if anyone asks who you work for you tell them you are a self-employed contractor.
Your booklet of terms and conditions is a mass of scribble, crossings out, arrows and question marks. You can't remember if you work a 35-hour week with six week's leave or a six-hour week with 35 week's leave.
You have given up asking the union rep anything as you fear that in the confusion you might actually be the union rep.
Then the government announces that you will have to work till you are 70, which will just about give you time to work out your pension.
In The Socialist 26 October 2006:
War and terrorism