United we stand? The Southern Rail dispute and the unions

Southern's Brighton to London service

Southern’s Brighton to London service

117 years ago, my great-great grandad, president of the Amalgamated Society of railway servants (ASRS), sat down in a meeting between the executives of ASRS and the Associated Society of locomotive engineers and firemen (ASLEF) to discuss federation. Had they succeeded in establishing unity between the rail unions back then, I might not be writing this article now. The TUC and rail management have used Victorian-era sectional craft differences to divide railway workers. I hope to explain what has happened in relation to the dispute on Southern Rail and the role of the TUC and ASLEF. I am aware that the railway runs on a level of jargon and acronym that approaches another language so please forgive the mini railway rules refresher! Continue reading

Talking Tosh on public ownership – the speech of the week

“Talking Tosh”, as Billy Hayes (moving the Communication Workers Union motion against privatising Royal Mail) said immediately after this outstanding speech, has acquired an entirely new meaning.

Tosh McDonald, Vice-President of train drivers’ union ASLEF, received a much deserved standing ovation for an off-the-cuff contribution, seconding a motion in support of the public ownership of the railways from the Transport and Salaried Staffs Association. Continue reading

Johann Lamont shows how to be a union-friendly leader

Johann Lamont, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, speaking to the annual conference of the train drivers’ union ASLEF in Edinburgh, delivered a clear message of support for trade union rights, trade union involvement in policy-making and policies that trade unions have been seeking.

She said she didn’t – and no one should – underestimate the challenge of wining back the trust of the people of Scotland for Labour – and that includes many trade unionists: Continue reading

Rebuilding Rail: a blueprint for rail industry reform

The Rebuilding Rail report was commissioned by rail unions ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and UNITE in order to examine how a better structure for the railway could be created in order to deliver better value for taxpayers or passengers. It calls for a complete overhaul of our fragmented, franchised network, putting rail back into the hands of the public who both use and pay for the service.

It conservatively estimates that, since privatisation the cost to the public purse of running the railways has risen by a factor of between two and three times, from about £2.4 billion per year before privatisation to around £5.4bn per year today. Over the same period the amount of money that is ‘invested’ into the railways from passenger fares has also increased in real terms. Continue reading