Southern drivers: reject this sell-out!

Submitted by Off The Rails on Tue, 02/07/2017 - 12:26

This is the text of a special bulletin produced by supporters of Off The Rails, a platform for rank-and-file rail workers, urging ASLEF drivers on Southern to vote to reject the deal aimed at settling the dispute over "Driver Only Operation" (DOO).

To download a PDF copy of the bulletin for distribution, click here.


The settlement that has come out of the talks between ASLEF and Southern at the TUC represents possibly the worst sell out of workers in recent memory.

Many workers were fearing the worst - given the fact that RMT were excluded from the talks and the fact that the TUC's track record in intervening in disputes is a dismal one - but what has emerged from two weeks of highly secretive talks is mind-boggingly awful.

It is hard to fathom how the ASLEF leadership is going to convince its members on Southern that this is acceptable. In reality it does almost nothing to protect drivers from having to run trains that would previously have required a guard as DOO:

The list of "Agreed reasons to run without an OBS (On Board Supervisor)" runs as long as your arm and includes lateness, sickness and routine delays.

In other words, GTR are not obliged to provide OBS cover at all for those services!

Dispatch responsibilities are transferred to the driver, with OBS assisting with train dispatch *only* in 'degraded' situations and *only* where they are both present on the service in question and hold the required safety competency.

The agreement includes a commitment to 'explore the scope and feasibility of an indemnity scheme for drivers'. In reality there is no way an employer can indemnify an employee from prosecution.

If the driver closes the doors and goes and someone is hurt and killed as a result, nothing GTR says or does can protect them - it will be for the courts to decide whether they are culpable.

THIS AGREEMENT GOES BACK ON EVERYTHING ASLEF HAS BEEN SAYING ABOUT SAFE TRAIN DISPATCH.

The rest of this shoddy agreement is promises of Jam Tomorrow and/or Pie in the Sky:

Appendix D - 'Technology improvement' contains an agreement that GTR and ASLEF will 'work together to develop improved safe systems of work'. There is little detail about exactly what these improvements will be, subjects them to the 'exigencies of service' and does not commit to fully introduce the improvements until autumn 2020! How many drivers will be prosecuted for PTI safety incidents between now and then?

  • There is an agreement that Southern will offer drivers' vacancies to redundant freight drivers. This is a favourite of the ASLEF leadership and has recently been used as reason to browbeat its members into accepting changes to terms and conditions that they otherwise would not. This agreement is no better than what many other TOCs already offer *and any redundant freight driver will still have to pass a job interview with GTR*. Freight drivers support workers on Southern and oppose DOO as much as any other rail worker. These drivers do need jobs but they also need a union that fights. This 'deal' is unacceptable.
  • Appendix F - 'Restoration of positive relationships' contains plans to sign a new 'Drivers Agreement' that will replace the current DRI but has no detail on what this will look like and how it will be any better. Neither is there any guarantee that it will not be worse. GTR and ASLEF will apparently 'jointly work to develop effective part time working, family friendly and employment practices', and there will be 'Discussion on Drivers Establishment and resourcing'.
  • ASLEF has settled disputes on the back of such vague commitments before, such as at Northern Rail where they settled a pay dispute with a paltry increase to the company's previous offer and promises of future talks on a 'retention package' to follow. What happened? Almost nothing came out of those talks.

    EMPLOYERS CANNOT BE TRUSTED. DISPUTES CANNOT BE SETTLED ON PROMISES FOR THE FUTURE.

    Off the Rails says:

  • The strikes effective! Morale was high, the service was shut down. THIS FIGHT CAN BE WON.
  • Vote No to this shoddy sell out and demand that the ASLEF leadership regains its backbone and reaffirms commitment to working with RMT to push back DOO
  • Reject any attempts to browbeat members into acceptance with doom and gloom arguments or guilt trips about redundant freight drivers
  • Demand the union immediately announce further strike days
  • Demand strike pay - the union has been appealing for and receiving payments into its fighting fund. It's time this was stepped up and it's time they started paying out!
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