Thursday, 3 March 2016

Shoulder To Shoulder

Both American parties, the CBI, and the second in line to the Throne are discombobulating people who have not been paying attention, by wearily reminding them to vote to stay in the EU. Meanwhile, Mick Whelan writes:

Aslef is backing the campaign to leave the European Union in the referendum on June 23. 

Not because we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Nigel Farage — a man memorably described by The Economist as “a saloon bar bore” and with whom we have nothing in common, politically or industrially — but because we believe the EU has become a rich man’s club. 

It’s a club which offers lots for the boss class — for the neoliberals whose siren calls echo around the corridors of power in the capitals of Europe — but little for ordinary hard-working men and women trying to earn a living in this Conservative age of austerity. 

At the heart of our objections are a couple of proposals emerging from Brussels which we think will be bad for Britain in general, and bad for the railway in particular — the European Commission’s Fourth Railway Package, and the TTIP trade deal between the EU and the US. 

The Fourth Railway Package is a controversial set of proposals which would foist the British model of rail privatisation on the rest of Europe. 

We know that privatisation doesn’t work. It’s not the right model for Britain and it’s not the right model for Europe. 

But this package would turn what we see, and is still seen in many European countries, as a public service into an opportunity for a few firms to plunder a private profit. 

This would happen despite the reservations of many MEPs and protests from rail workers right across the continent. 

Privatisation hasn’t worked, doesn’t work, and will not work in what is, like other public services such as the provision of gas, water, electricity and the Royal Mail, a natural monopoly. 

The model is broken and is selling Britain — passengers, taxpayers, and those of who work on the railway — woefully short. 

In the 20 years since John Major privatised our industry — a privatisation, incidentally, which even Margaret Thatcher described as “a privatisation too far” — we have seen rolling stock get older, trains get more crowded and fares go through the roof. 

We now have the highest fares in Western Europe, because of privatisation. 

But the European Commission is determined to impose this flawed model on the rest of Europe. And, if it succeeds, it will prevent us from ever bringing the railways back into public ownership. 

We were delighted when Jeremy Corbyn — who we backed when he was campaigning to become leader of the Labour Party — came out and committed the next Labour government to renationalising Britain’s railways.

It’s not just the right policy, it’s a popular policy. Even Conservative voters are fed up paying over the odds to help the privatised train companies make a profit at our expense. 

But the Fourth Railway Package, if it’s enacted, will prevent us from doing what voters want. 

TTIP is unnecessary as the EU and US already enjoy strong trade and investment relationships, with tariffs at minimal levels. So why are companies so keen to see this new deal signed? 

It’s because the aim of TTIP is to remove those barriers which restrict the profits transnational corporations can make. 

The problem is that what global corporations perceive as barriers include vital regulations protecting our labour rights, food safety and banking safeguards. 

It might be handy for profit-hungry corporations if they didn’t have to comply with social and environmental regulations. 

Many would like to live in a free market Wild West, but it would not be good for the rest of us. 

Another aim of TTIP is to open public services and government procurement contracts to competition from transnational corporations. 

Our health and education sectors are undergoing gradual privatisation, from children’s social services to care homes and from ambulance services to the railways. 

TTIP would accelerate this. The aim, of course, is to make a private profit at public expense. 

TTIP would also make it easier for companies to source goods and services from the US, where labour standards are lower, and to eradicate workers’ rights like collective bargaining and the right to organise, on the grounds that they restrict their business model and profit margins. 

I think it’s ironic, to say the least, that David Cameron has spent the last few weeks travelling around Europe in a bid to take back British sovereignty from Brussels when he is happy to hand it over, through TTIP, not just to the US but to neoliberals everywhere. 

There are other arguments, of course — and you will read many of them here in the pages of this paper. At Aslef we were very concerned about the way Greece has been treated by the EU. 

But when Aslef’s executive committee met to discuss our position, the decision to back a Brexit was taken — with the proviso that we not campaign alongside, or stand on any platforms with, any of the racist, xenophobic and misogynist supporters of the Leave campaign from Ukip and the Conservative right wing.

No comments:

Post a Comment