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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Public funding for ‘anti-union’ rail franchises

From Alsef's January 2010 'Locomotive Journal'.

"There is now formal evidence that rail franchises, drawn up by tories and backed by labour, are actively anti-worker.

Franchise rail firms don’t need to bother about having good industrial relations. If they cause a strike by bad treatment of employees or insulting pay offers, they’re not too worried – because the taxpayer will compensate them.

This is the result of a clause that reads ‘the secretary of state, in his sole discretion, may decide to reimburse or ameliorate net losses of the franchise operator arising from industrial action (howsoever caused and of whatever nature)'.

This is really remarkable. It means companies can treat staff as badly as they choose – and get paid for doing it!

This only came into the public eye after Dave Calfe from the Aslef executive committee had a two-year battle to prise information about this clause from the department for transport, using the freedom of Information Act.

As a result of his persistence Blaydon MP Dave Anderson asked a direct Parliamentary Question – had the department for transport paid out money under this clause? Yes, came the eventual and reluctant reply.

He asked who it was paid to, and how much they got – but this information was not given to him because it was ‘commercially confidential’.

Read that again. On the grounds of commercially confidentiality, the labour government will not tell a member of Parliament how much taxpayers’ money had gone to subsidise an employer who had been inconvenienced by legal industrial action taken by a union affiliated to labour!

This really is a scandal. It’s the equivalent of the tories agreeing to fund our members’ wages during an industrial dispute. And worse, itactively protects franchises that have bad industrial relations practices.

Franchises make the government position utterly illogical. If we ask them to intervene on an issue, they says it’s nothing to do with them. They are independent companies and the department for transport has no control over them. This is nonsense. two companies – First Capital Connect and London Midland – were summoned to the department last month and told to submit action plans to improve
their performance.

This is clear intervention by the government, which leads to two conclusions. First it means it can intervene on issues we want raised with companies, like free staff travel. And second, if it does have to intervene, the logic is for the department to oversee the whole railway in the public sector.

All they need to do is not renew franchises when they run out. I know Aslef will be accused of bad manners again – but it is a fact that this is labour Party policy."

So Aslef are surprised that a Labour government is following 'anti-union' policies. You'd have thought they would have become accustomed to it by now.

They draw two conclusions. I have two of my own:

First, Aslef insists on continuing to be affiliated to the Labour Party and to waste union members' dues on funding this anti-working class organisation. The union leaders actively encourage local branches to affiliate to their local Labour Party. The Aslef leadership are, therefore, partly responsible for the Labour government's 'anti-union' policies.

Second, Aslef assumes that governments are entirely free to follow whatever policies they choose. However, when you seek to hold political power you are forced to play by capitalism's rules. It is the capitalist dog that wags the government's tail, not the other way around.

1 comment:

  1. Aslef facilitate money going to the Labour Party. They pay for market fanaticism - why moan when they get it? Too weird.