The NW TUC held a NW Action for Rail Conference in July 2012 in the Mechanics Centre, Manchester. The Speakers included Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, Chris Baugh, Assistant General Secretary PCS, Colin Smith, ASLEF District Organiser and TSSA Rep, Martin Hodges - victimised by Virgin Rail. The Conference attracted over 50 delegates. All the rail unions were well represented and there were also delegates from other unions, trades councils, local authorities and local campaign groups.
The main plenary session was followed by workshops and the rest of this note sets out the recommendations that were made by the workshops.
It was argued that our messages needed to be 'headline makers', with the following suggested:
Safety - driver only trains, unstaffed stations, more overcrowding all raised issues of personal passenger safety, cost cutting would compromise maintenance and safety more generally on the railway
Higher fares - hit passengers directly but also lead to higher prices of goods transported by rail and would drive more passengers and freight back on the roads adding to congestion and green house gas emissions.
It was a bad deal for the tax payer - public money went in and the profits taken out as dividends to share holders - often foreign nationalised rail companies, for worse services.
The campaign needs to pro-actively use the media. We should target sympathetic national newspapers to carry regular stories. Paid for advertising should also be considered, jargon free messages about the facts of McNulty in terms of the key messages above. Use of the free sheets could be cost effective and publications like the Metro which are widely distributed to the travelling public. We should be systematic in organising letter writing campaigns to news papers and getting on radio phone-ins. Other ideas included celebrity led documentaries and fly-on-the-wall type programmes to show the realities of life on the railway and the role of the union and union reps.
We should use social media tools. Short U-tube videos with key campaign messages could be commissioned with content also produced on DVDs that could be given out along with traditional leaflets. Facebook and twitter can carry the key messages. We need to widely promote the web site and ensure we include links to the site in all other material and media, including having smart phone bar codes on leaflets to direct to the site.
The campaign needs to reach out to a variety of potential allies. Passenger user groups are an obvious starting point, but we should also identify others that represent groups that would be vulnerable to the changes flowing from McNulty including women's groups, disabled people and pensioners.
Other trade unions are also key allies. Their members will be affected as consumers, passengers and workers and they need to be convinced of our key messages.
There must be the greatest possible unity and coordination between the rail unions themselves.
The campaign has a number of targets, the regular travelling public, occasional passengers and the wider community that the recommendations above seek to address. The campaign however needs to also target decision makers. In terms of MPs we should look to Labour MPs to support the campaign, promote the case for public ownership and expose the failure of privatisation. We should target Con-Dem MPs in railway constituencies and we could use MEPs to question the parent companies of TOC's. The campaign should also target Councillors, both to gain their general support for the aims but also to specifically influence how local authorities carry out their public transport duties.
The Conference concluded with a commitment to feed these recommendations into the National Steering Group, to appeal to all unions for support and call for maximum activity in the region on Action for Rail Day on the 14 August.
Briefing document (700 words) issued 6 Aug 2012