Train strike: It’s Not Just About Pushing Buttons

The recent strikes by conductors and train drivers - members of the RMT and ASLEF unions - have been the biggest railway strikes in decades.

As a local, Brighton SolFed has been supporting the local striking members. Our support has been through the attendance of pickets, and organising a benefit gig; to raise money for the local strike fund, and, most importantly, to show solidarity and get workers across industries together.

If you only read media reports, this would seem to be a simple dispute regarding who merely pushes a button to open the train doors.

Really, this is about our safety.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) is the company that owns the privatised Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, and Thameslink railway operators.

Boil-in-the-bag drivers

The recent train drivers union (ASLEF) leadership election was a shock to many rail union activists.

It had been thought that the current leader, Mick Rix would walk it, so he hardly bothered to campaign. Shaun Brady was seen as a right-wing Neanderthal no-hoper who had only managed to gain the support of a handful of branches compared with Rix, who had the backing of over 80 branches. While Rix sat on his backside, Brady got out and about with his populist arguments, ranging from antipolitical-correctness to opposition to asylum seekers.

Missing the last train

If you want an example of how not to organise at work, look no further than ASLEF, the train drivers' union.

In Cat8, we reported on the election of Shaun Brady as leader – since then he has threatened to sack staff working at ASLEF head office and replace them with non-union labour. Why? Because they had voted to strike over bullying by none other than Brady himself. It is all part of the bitter ASLEF turf war between the “left” faction led by ex-leader Brian Rix and Brady's “right” faction (actually orchestrated by Adams).