Union officials scupper drivers' pensions fight

Submitted by AWL on 21 August, 2012 - 12:53

“If I’m being held by terrorists who are threatening to kill me, for f**k’s sake don’t send in any ASLEF negotiators.” - Anonymous messroom wit

Sabotage by three ASLEF full timers killed off the pension dispute on East Midlands Trains. Hours before the Olympics were due to start, they suspended strikes set to take place during the games so that the Executive could consider another deal they had negotiated.

The clincher, according to District Organiser Richard Fisher (one of the negotiating team), in a document entitled Informal Summary Of EMT Pensions Dispute (ISOEPD), was a new agreement on “The sharing of extra information and the ability to discuss it …”

There will now be annual pension reviews in addition to the triannual review: simply put, more talks next year with no substantive gain for us in the here and now. As the DO quite rightly says it is; “… exactly the same mechanism that we have for dealing with the 3-yearly valuation”, ie, nothing new. You’ve got to wonder what he would accept to close down a dispute arising from one of these annual reviews; perhaps having reviews 3 times a year?

The other “significant and positive difference” is that now we can choose to opt into, rather than being automatically enrolled into the salary sacrifice scheme. This is only significant if you consider ASLEF members incapable of filling in a simple opt out form. Who knows, perhaps he does, it would certainly be consistent with what he thinks are the important points in this dispute which doesn’t, it seems, include what we think.

You would search ISOEPD in vain for any mention of the Nottingham branch meeting he attended in July where he witnessed the strength of feeling amongst the members for action during the Olympics or the fact that again in July three branches representing the vast majority of EMT members voted for strike action during the Olympics. Also absent is any mention of the fact that not one of our lay reps were asked for their opinion on the deal.

Of course the lack of consultation is understandable; the negotiators knew it was rubbish and they didn’t need the Drivers’ Functional Council to tell them, so they just ignored them. But if the negotiators knew it was bad, why did they push it? Maybe they didn’t have time to consult? Was there a deadline - and if so, who imposed it? It certainly wasn’t the members. Unless you think that the negotiators were simply not up to the job, how else can we explain this lamentable outcome? One possibility is that there was some third party with an interest in getting the strike pulled who had more influence over our elected representatives than we have. Maybe a quiet word from the TUC or Labour Party, who would want to avoid at all costs having to talk about workers striking during the Games? Who knows; maybe our own leaders thought the same?

No-one is saying that we weren’t in a difficult position on pensions, what with all the other unions accepting the changes, but this outcome is confusing and debilitating. If we had struck during the Olympics and the company had not moved then we would have at least given it our best shot. It we had called off the dispute without further action or concessions then you would have the consolation of having tried. In both instances the members would have felt in control, but the pitiful outcome we got raises some serious doubts.

Do our leaders fight to win? Do the members run the union? We must work to ensure that both can be answered in the affirmative.

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