Northern Rail drivers: Vote No to the 'New Deal'!

Posted in Off The Rails's blog on Tue, 25/06/2019 - 22:19,

In the ASLEF rulebook, rule 2 (a) states: "ASLEF is a registered trade union, it is part of the Labour and Trade Union Movement...". Rules 3.1 (VIII and XII) commit the union to assist in the furtherance of the labour movement towards a socialist society, and recognise that trade unionism is international and that the union should pursue solidarity with workers globally. Rule 3.3 provides for ASLEF aiding or joining with other organisations that have "within their objects the promotion of the interests of workers".

These rules - part of the Constitution and Objects of ASLEF - set out our union's commitment to the ideals of trade unionism. They are the first reason we must vote NO to the current "New Deal for Drivers" offer from Northern, supported by our Company Council and the union machine.

Despite what is said at the end of the recent Q&A document issued jointly by the company and union, this deal DOES take ASLEF away from the collective bargaining agreement as it relates to pay, where we are signed up to single table pay talks with the employer and the other unions RMT, TSSA and Unite. That last answer is utterly dishonest in its omission to mention this, focusing only on the fact that Drivers' Terms and Conditions are only negotiated at Drivers' Employee Council. This is a true statement but a deliberately incomplete answer to the question of whether or not "Collective Bargaining" has been "breached".

Clearly it has, as Drivers' annual pay increases are included in the offer, with inferior pay offers being made separately to the other unions representing the other grades. By voting for this deal, we are backing a clear statement from our representatives that the only party to the collective bargaining agreement that ASLEF respects is the employer, rather than our fellow trade unions, also members of the labour movement. We are being led across class lines into a collaboration with the bosses against our fellow workers - one of the most despicable things a so-called trade union can do.

While annual pay awards are included in this deal, a 'yes' vote is a vote to sell our soul as a trade union and runs in conflict with the basic ideals on which ASLEF is supposedly founded.

The second main reason we should vote NO is that this agreement, by virtue of deliberately vague wording, seeks to remove one of the key pillars of our industrial power as a grade.

Clause 10.4, concerning new technology, is deliberately more loosely worded than the clause in the original (East/ex-ATN) DRI document on which it is based.

The original DRI uses the following formula:

"Any proposed new technology, new trains or new equipment, including modifications to trains will be subject to appropriate consultation/negotiation with the Arriva Trains Northern Drivers Company Council prior to introduction."

The proposed revised clause reads:

"Drivers will accept advancements in technology through either active consultation or negotiation where it is demonstrated to enhance the operational delivery for The Company. The Company will work Driver Employee Council on the development of future technology."

The difference between consultation and negotiation is that the company can still impose whatever it wants after a consultation, whereas in a negotiation they need our agreement. By introducing this form of words, we are allowing the company to choose whether or not it wants to negotiate with us on the introduction of ANY new technology FOREVER.

Whilst the preceding clause 10.3 appears to specifically exclude anything involving the operation of train doors from this, there is literally NO LIMIT on whatever else this could include.

Having a right to agree all new technology is an important bargaining chip for us and the union, and can be used to help improve pay or to help resolve smaller issues by being 'awkward' until the company gives us something in return for our co-operation.

The union knows this is what the company is trying to do, we have reliable information that our representatives asked for this clause to be returned to its original form and the employer refused. Yet they are still advising us to vote for it, and other vague clauses (DTMs driving trains, etc) - why? See my earlier comments about selling our soul as a trade union.

The third reason to vote against is the sheer divisiveness of it. Everyone can agree on the benefits (increases in pay, shorter working week, longer guaranteed rest between shifts, average 4 day week) Drivers on the West (ex-FNW) side of the franchise are being asked to bring their Sundays inside their working week for what they seem almost universally to believe is not a fair price. They are also just as aware of the dangers of some of the loosely worded items in the proposed deal as the Drivers on the East who are looking beyond the money on offer. This is supposed to be a 'harmonisation' deal, yet by conducting the negotiations in secret without any consultation with the membership, it is causing massive division between people who are more or less affected, or people who prioritise certain benefits over others. It also divides the Council themselves - despite the pretence of unity behind it, we believe 4 out of the 9 of them actually oppose it - mainly those on the West.

If we vote for this shoddy deal, not only will we still be near the bottom of the 'league table' for pay in four years' time when the last year of the pay increases kick in, but we will still be bitter and divided, we will have worsened some of our terms and conditions of employment at the same time as hampering our bargaining power to improve them. On top of that, we will have shamed ourselves in the eyes of the labour movement of which we claim to be a part, and deepened the divisions between ourselves and the other workers in our industry.

We must vote NO.

Trade Unions

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