Off The Rails Autumn 2006

John McDonnell 4 Labour Leader

Another world is possible

On 14th July the battle to be the next leader of the Labour Party became a two-horse race. John McDonnell, Hayes & Harlington MP and Chair of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, threw his hat into the ring. He needs all the support we can give him to ensure victory over the usurpers that have held our party captive for years.

Labour Conference: ASLEF Not Welcome

Given it's a Labour Party affiliate which pays £40,000+ a year for the privilege, you might have thought ASLEF members would get representation at conference.

Sadly not. Keith Norman and the rest of the delegation were turned away from September's conference, having waited for four days to collect their credentials without success. It seems that the party's decision to take conference bureaucracy "in house" to save money has brought in a new wave of incompetence - "delays in processing applications" was the only excuse given.

Central Trains: Sick System

As New Labour's obsession with privatisation spreads like a virus through the NHS, it is beginning to affect us as workers as well as patients.

A senior conductor on Central Trains has been forced to retire on ill-health. It was either that or the company would sack him for breach of contract. No matter that a routine operation would have enabled him to return to work.

GNER: TSSA Takes Action?

GNER workers are preparing to defend jobs and conditions as the company hits financial crisis. Bermuda-based parent company Sea-Containers filed for bankruptcy protection in the USA on 16th October. But you can bet the bosses will try to bail themselves out at our expense.

GB Railfreight

In August ASLEF train drivers at GB Railfreight voted by about 2:1 not to strike against the company closing the final-salary pension scheme to new starters.

While RMT and TSSA were holding an industry- wide aggregated ballot on pension rights in June, ASLEF negotiated their way out of the dispute on a company-by-company basis promising that any company not signing up would face industrial action. They threw away the strength of a united rail union strike with an aggregate ballot preferring instead to get what they could for some drivers and leaving the others to take their chances. Maybe at the time they thought this would only effect the non-driving grades? Obviously that wasn't the case.

Network Rail operational

Following a difficult year with the 35-hour week and pay dispute (covered in the last two issues of Off The Rails), Network Rail signallers now face a series of fresh attacks.

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Network Rail is using its operations reorganisation to attack the PTR&R (Promotion, Transfer, Redundancy and Resettlement) agreement, casting a shadow over the future of many signalling jobs.

Heathrow Express

Heathrow Express workers have fought hard against the company's attack on pay and conditions, but the employer's hostility, and division between the unions, has left issues unresolved.

ASLEF and RMT were due to strike over the three-year pay offer on 7, 11 and 21 September. This made the company agree to talks at last, and both unions suspended the first two dates (obviously, they still haven't got the hand of the idea that you can talk and strike at the same time).

EWS Groundstaff

After years of attacking its staff and bashing the unions, EWS has produced restructuring plans that are an insult to all groundstaff. They may be a joke, or an attempt to make us accept a milder version at a later date. We're not laughing.

Marxism at Work: One Union For All Railworkers

The greatest weakness among rail workers today is our being split into several unions. Management are able to exploit the divisions, and the unions' energies are diverted into duplicating each others' services and competing with each other rather than uniting against the employers. At its worst, they even end up signing separate deals or scabbing on each others' strikes.