Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/420/4919
Rail workers fight bosses' offensive
THE RAIL industry remains, despite privatisation, a stronghold of trade unionism. ASLEF has 95% of its eligible members, whilst 70,000 other rail workers are RMT members.
An ASLEF member
There also remain important elements of workers' control. The time a train driver is allowed to learn a route is agreed between local management and union reps. Drivers' and guards' working days are set out in diagrams which union reps have the right to check and reject if they don't conform to negotiated agreements.
These rights are under threat in disputes looming at Central Trains and Midland Mainline. Midland Mainline drivers are to be balloted for industrial action after management failed to adhere to agreements about the 2004 pay award, about the unreasonable refusal to grant applications for leave, an unfair policy on Specially Monitored Employees, and threats to ASLEF representatives.
Central Trains drivers are to be balloted over management imposition of links. A link encompasses the work a driver is expected to do over a number of weeks and should be jointly agreed by management and union reps.
Central Trains bosses could not get agreement at Birmingham New Street, Crewe and Wolverhampton depots, so they imposed their own ideas. When an ASLEF rep at Crewe put out a notice explaining the issues to members, he was accused of inciting unofficial industrial action and threatened with disciplinary action. The chair of ASLEF's negotiating committee, who works at Birmingham, was also threatened.
In both cases, Midland Mainline and Central, the franchises will end in November 2007. Management clearly intend to have a cost-cutting spree now to make themselves look good before the new franchises.
Ballots close on 9 January in both cases, which ASLEF must win. Meanwhile the RMT is balloting hundreds of Central Trains guards for strike action on 27 December and 2 January, over management's refusal to offer any additional payment for working on days which most other workers consider bank holidays. The ballot closes 20 December.
In The Socialist 15 December 2005: