ASLEF will launch its new On Track with Diversity report – which reveals a glaring gap between those in the driver’s cab at the front of the train and the communities they serve – at the Houses of Parliament.
Mick Whelan, general secretary, said: ‘When I stood up at our annual assembly of delegates – our annual conference – in Leeds last month I was pleased to see how diverse the room looked. Because I have spent 35 years on the railway, and 35 years as an active trade unionist, and I know how many train drivers look just like me. Middle-aged, male, and white. And that’s why I was delighted to see so many young members, women drivers, and black reps at our conference.
‘Because while the trade union movement, historically, has not always been at the progressive cutting edge on some of these issues, this trade union is absolutely committed to equality and diversity in the rail industry.
‘But, as a trade union, we can only recruit, as members, those who have been employed as drivers by the privatised train and freight operating companies. We work with these companies, every day of every week, to ensure they encourage women, as well as men, and black and minority ethnic, as well as white, people to become drivers.’
The harsh facts are that, in 2019, only 6.5% of train drivers in England, Scotland and Wales are women; just 8% are from an ethnic minority; and only 15% are under 35.
These figures do not represent the communities we serve because 51% of the people in this country are female; 20% in the last census identified as ethnic minority; and 23% are aged 18 to 35.
Mick said: ‘We believe that a train driver is a train driver is a train driver – regardless of gender, sexuality, religion, or race – and we’ve been pushing the companies to allow more part-time and flexible working because the lack of such agreements has been a barrier, in the past, to women coming into our industry as many still take on the primary responsibility for child care.
‘I want to thank Carolyn Jones, director of the Institute of Employment Rights, and Nadia Motraghi and Ijeoma Omambala, of Old Square Chambers, the authors of this report, for their detailed research, analysis, and recommendations.
‘And there is, we believe, light at the end of the tunnel. Especially if the recommendations in our report are implemented.
‘Because we know the rail industry needs to do more to improve its recruitment policies and we will work closely with the companies to ensure this happens.
‘ASLEF has been at the forefront of promoting diversity in our industry, and we want to ensure that train drivers are more representative of the communities we serve. So that, next year, at our annual conference, I will see even fewer people who look just like me…’