Drivers are fighting back at London Midland
London Midland management is making false claims about train drivers as a dispute over pay and conditions continues to disrupt its Sunday services.
It is obvious to drivers that the firm wants to turn the travelling public against them and their Aslef union. I hope this will become obvious to your readers too.
The privatised rail firms keep staff numbers lower than needed to run a service. Sundays remain outside the working week and so the companies rely upon people working overtime to maintain services, saving them money.
This dispute has been going on for years.
When London Midland was formed from two franchises in 2007, drivers were on different terms and conditions.
It soon became evident that London Midland was attempting to force the ex-Silverlink drivers to work to Central Trains conditions, which were worse. Supervisors were supposed to get the drivers to toe the line.
Drivers successfully resisted this, although there was a loss of morale. Applications to work overtime on Sundays and weekday rest-days became fewer. The service, which was already struggling, got even worse.
Rather than attempt to fix the cause of the fall in staff morale by improving conditions, the company imposed double time pay for Sunday work. This was against union advice as Aslef wanted the money spent on harmonisation.
But the firm later withdrew the double time Sunday payment to both drivers and conductors. Volunteers for Sunday work dropped away.
After a few weeks, London Midland once again imposed double time for Sunday work.
Aslef members balloted for industrial action over the issues at the end of last year, voting 87 percent in favour.
London Midland got an injunction to prevent the strike. The decision was based on just two ballot papers that had been delivered incorrectly. A re-ballot is imminent.
London Midland has withdrawn drivers’ double time payment for Sunday working, meaning drivers didn’t volunteer for work.
Train drivers are proud professionals doing a hugely responsible job. Our day could start with getting up at 3am or working a job that finishes at 1.30am. A driver will be doing a similar shift every day of the week he/she is required to work.
People’s opinions would be very different if they saw the unsociable hours drivers work, the 40-minute break contained in a ten-hour shift in which hundreds of people are reliant on you staying alert.
There are also the school plays and parent evenings missed, the holidays taken when you are told to take them, the missed social time with friends and family.
I hope this letter has gone some way to helping your readers reach a more balanced opinion as to where the blame for the situation should be laid.
London Midland driver, by email
Debate on movement will go on
Capitalism is in an entrenched crisis and governments around the world are intensifying their attacks on the working class.
In this situation, millions of people are looking for an alternative.
Once radicals could have seen a potential solution in the Labour Party, or the Soviet Union and its satellites.
For many, these alternatives now seem thoroughly discredited.
Is it any wonder that many people now look to anarchism as a way to change the system?
But what is anarchism?
To some it is a vaguely political urge to smash things, to others it is elitist conspiratorialism in the spirit of the Russian radical Mikhail Bakunin.
Many look to the proud tradition of the Spanish CNT and the US Industrial Workers of the World, radical unions which led mass strikes.
Even “autonomism” (Autonomism and the fight for change) is no more uniform.
Its origins lie in the “workerism” of factory occupations in 1970s Italy.
Today the word is associated with loose individualism, distrust of political organisation and the methods of “consensus based decision-making”.
Socialists strive to build unity in practice with reformists—those who want to make a difference but have illusions in parliament, or pessimism about the possibilities of revolution.
Similarly, we can have a very productive relationship with many people who consider themselves anarchists or are influenced by autonomist ideas.
But we must still insist on the importance of a Marxist analysis.
Only the working class can liberate humanity from capitalism.
To do this it needs to be united, disciplined and revolutionary.
This is a debate that we need to continue throughout the movement.
Dave Sewell, East London
New powers won’t save Scots universities
Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond says that he will exercise new financial powers being transferred to Holyrood to change the system of council tax.
I’m extremely pleased that Scotland’s first minister is planning ahead.
But surely he has more immediate problems to solve, considering that these new powers will not come into force until 2015.
Mr Salmond is evading the declining status of Scottish universities.
Glasgow university has already announced that several courses will have to be cut.
Academics across the country are stressing that unless universities receive substantially more funding, this trend will continue.
Alex Salmond’s response to this problem is “a Scottish solution”.
The SNP will conveniently define this after the Scottish election.
Mr Salmond, it would be a lot more constructive and responsible for you to use your energy to address our university crisis now, rather than trying to win votes by boasting about what you are going to do in four years time.
That’s if you are still first minister.
Robert Samuel McGregor, Glasgow
Million climate jobs is part of alternative
The fantastic demonstration on 26 March was called as a “march for the alternative”. There is a need for socialists to engage in debates about what that alternative is.
That’s why we support the demand for one million climate jobs. This is the idea that the government should invest in jobs in renewable energy, public transport and other industries where those jobs reduce carbon emissions.
This type of investment would reduce unemployment and start to tackle climate change. The jobs are needed—and if Britain did it, other countries could follow.
The Campaign against Climate Change has initiated a petition calling for climate jobs. This can be signed at www.climate-change-jobs.org/petition.
We are urging people to sign the petition and promote it within their unions and anti-cuts groups.
There is enough money for the government to create jobs.
These could come from closing tax loopholes or abandoning the Trident nuclear system. If we speak to people about climate jobs we can make an argument about what society would be like if we ran it in our own interests.
Camilla Royle, West London
System is attack on vulnerable
Vulnerable people were being taken off benefits even before Atos had the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contract (Exclusive: 'Sick firm told us to catch out disabled people').
The fact that the directives must come from the department makes a mockery of the often quoted position by DWP staff when questioned as to the independence of these “medicals”. They say these are “not biased”.
This new evidence shows that the state is manipulating what amounts to a judicial process because these “medicals” are used in evidence at tribunals.
Disability Living Allowance Help Group, Scotland
Pensioners' allowance slashed too
I was surprised that Simon Basketter (George Osborne delivers another Tory budget for the rich) omitted to report that Tory chancellor George Osborne secretly slashed the winter fuel allowance in his budget.
It has been reduced by £100 to £300 for over-80s and by £50 to £200 for those aged 60 to 79.
There seems to have been a conspiracy of silence about this in the mainstream media and I’m sure that many pensioners are still unaware of Osborne’s sneaky cut.
Dave Taylor, Hampshire
AV means more of Clegg
I think those who have written letters supporting the alternative vote system (AV) are misguided (Letters).
AV will not mean more socialists getting elected. Preference voting favours mainsteam parties as “everyone’s second preference” ends up getting elected—one of the big three.
AV means one thing: more Lib Dems. That’s why they support it. Five more years of Nick Clegg? No thanks!
Stick it to the Liberals—vote no in the referendum on 5 May.
Jenny, North London
Union helped me win case
May I use the pages of Socialist Worker to thank the CWU union for helping me to win my employment tribunal against Royal Mail.
I had four fantastic CWU reps support and advise me—Matthew, Graham, Glynn and especially Ali, who spent endless days preparing my case and repesenting me in court.
I would also like to thank my husband, family and friends, and my Chesterfield comrades. They have supported and believed in me through what has been a very difficult 18 months.
Maggie Page, Chesterfield
Are cables inefficient?
Martin Empson (Can renewables provide all our energy?) writes, “Greenpeace has shown that two thirds of energy generated is wasted either as heat at the power plants, or as the electricity travels along power lines.”
How does he square this with his statement “Modern high voltage direct current cables allow the transmission of electricity over long distances with minimal losses”?
Peter Gaskell, by email
No mobility in the system
David Willetts, the universities minister, recently claimed that the “feminist revolution” was the reason for Britain’s lack of social mobility.
He said this meant that well-educated women took jobs that otherwise would have gone to working class men.
This ignores the neoliberal assault that Tory and Labour governments have presided over in the last 30 years. It has devastated working men and women’s lives.
Willetts’ policy to raise university fees will also lead to a further decrease in social mobility in the future as the poor are priced out of education.
Katherine Branney, East London