Aslef goes off the rails with threat to employ 'scab' labour

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The new leader of Britain's train drivers has threatened to sack his entire staff if they go on strike, withdraw recognition from their union and hire a "scab" workforce on lower pay.

Aslef, the rail union, has been responsible for recent walkouts on the rail network. Yet Shaun Brady, its general secretary, has warned employees at the union's headquarters in London, who are members of the GMB general union, that he will take legal action if they walk out, and create a non-union staff association. In a letter to staff, Mr Brady warned of a new regime under which sick pay would be cut to the statutory minimum, flexible working arrangements would be abolished, childcare vouchers would be withdrawn and disciplinary procedures toughened up.

He referred to a dispute over procedures in the offices, which he said had been "manufactured" by supporters of the former general secretary Mick Rix. The GMB said the dispute was caused by breaches of both recruitment and disciplinary procedures. Paul Kenny, regional secretary of the GMB, said that Mr Brady was acting unlawfully by threatening to recruit staff who were not GMB members. "They will have great difficulty saying anything to any employer who issues these threats against train drivers in future," he said.

Mr Brady said that Aslef was involved in a number of disputes, including strikes at Gatwick Express. Train drivers also threatened to walk out recently at Heathrow Express because management would only award Aslef the same negotiating rights as a company staff association. Mr Brady said that as a consequence, Aslef staff needed to provide members with the seven-day-a-week protection the union was created to provide.

He said: "It gives me no pleasure to have to spell out the consequences of industrial action but there are serious issues, including financial irregularities, that have to be addressed in the running of this union and the membership would not thank me for failing to deal with them."