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"The introduction of minimum service levels is a huge mistake”

Dawn Stewart Guest
Published date
On Saturday 27 January, hundreds of union members will gather in Cheltenham to mark 40 years since Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government attacked trade union rights at GCHQ.

Union members were told to resign their membership or be sacked. But after a long campaign by the workers and their families, and the solidarity of the whole union movement, they were reinstated when an incoming Labour government repealed the ban. 

Now the Tories are attacking the fundamental human right to strike once again. 

So, trade union members from across the country – including train driver and Aslef member Dawn Stewart – will be marching and rallying in Cheltenham to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the GCHQ trade union ban. 

Better working conditions 

Dawn told the TUC: “I’ve been a train driver for six years. Last year I took strike action for the first time. We’ve been in dispute ever since. 

“Train drivers like me have been taking strike action for a pay rise that reflects the rising cost-of-living, for better working conditions and for safety on the railways. 

“Union members want to improve the safety and quality of the railways as well as win the pay rises that we deserve. 

Huge mistake 

Dawn continued: “I think the introduction of minimum service levels is a huge mistake. Minimum Service Levels will have a negative impact on passengers – they will make trains even less safe. 

“MSLs will result in train companies running dangerously busy train services – resulting in packed carriages and unsafe crowds on platforms. 

“And of course, they’ll also have a catastrophic impact on the workplace. 

“In the current government-controlled system, it’s already hard enough for us to win improvements to pay and conditions from our employers. MSLs will make it even harder.” 

Animosity at work 

Dawn explained: “MSLs will create animosity at the workplace – when rail workers named on a work notice are forced to cross the picket line, whilst those not named on a work notice will lose wages.  

“Those who are named on a work notice have effectively lost their right to strike. 

“That’s why I’ll be attending the demonstration in Cheltenham on Saturday. 

“40 years ago, working people like me called out Margaret Thatcher’s attack on workers’ rights – and they won. A generation later we stand ready to do the same.” 

Please join the TUC’s march and rally in Cheltenham on Saturday 27 January 2024.

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