Action for union rights
"I'D JOIN any trade union, but when the company says that's the one you have to join, you know it's wrong."
So said a striking Eurotunnel driver on Monday of this week on a picket line at the shuttle's terminal outside Folkestone.
Eurotunnel crew in the ASLEF union are in dispute with Eurotunnel bosses over union recognition.
The company has signed a single-union deal with the TGWU union, and is refusing to recognise ASLEF. But ASLEF is the nationally recognised union across the industry, representing train drivers and crew.
Monday's action was the first in a series of planned 24-hour strikes. French CGT and CFDT unions agreed not to cover work normally done by the ASLEF drivers. The strike came on the back of an 88 to 61 vote for action.
The strikers threw up a 20-strong picket line at 3.30 in the morning that included ASLEF general secretary Mick Rix, and successfully made sure the action was solid.
This is despite reports of intimidation by Eurotunnel management that included "heavy" letters and phone calls to drivers at home. Those on the picket line included former coal miners now working for Eurotunnel, who talked of their tradition of fighting back.
Eurotunnel spoke on Monday of "contingency arrangements" to make sure the Channel car and freight service was "running normally". These plans included using managers to staff the trains.
ASLEF reported the company to the Railways Inspectorate to look at the safety implications of managers driving trains.
Mick Rix rightly says that the drivers are in dispute with Eurotunnel managers and not the TGWU union. However, it is a disgrace that TGWU leaders have stitched up a deal with Eurotunnel that leaves the drivers and their union out in the cold.
Further 24-hour strikes are planned for all the Mondays in the run-up to Christmas.