Rail union calls for action to close racial disparity gap

Rail union calls for action to close racial disparity gap

MIND THE GAP: Rail union Aslef is calling on operators to take action to address the underrepresentation of women, BAME and young drivers

THE TRAIN drivers’ union is calling on operators to address the underrepresentation of BAME drivers.

In On Track with Diversity, which was published and presented to Parliament on Monday, Aslef highlighted a “glaring gap” between train drivers and the communities they serve.

The report shows that in 2019, just 8 per cent of drivers in England, Wales and Scotlandb were women and only 6.5 per cent were women and 15 per cent aged under 35.

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “These figures do not represent the communities we serve because 51 per cent of the people in this country are female; 20 per cent in the last census identified as ethnic minority; and 23 per cent are aged 18 to 35.”

Whelan 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.”

Whelan acknowledged some of the main barriers that were responsible for underrepresented groups progressing within the industry and called for the reasons for the disparities to be addressed by operators.

He 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 childcare.”

Among its recommendations, Aslef has called on operators to “equality and diversity proof adverts” so that they encourage a diverse range of candidates to apply, urged senior leaders to take up reverse mentoring to understand the challenges experienced by underrepresented groups and introduce unconscious bias training for all employees, with particular emphasis on those involved in recruitment.

“There is, we believe, light at the end of the tunnel. Especially if the recommendations in our report are implemented,” Whelan said.

Speaking at the Rail Live exhibition after the release of the report, Department for Transport permanent secretary Bernadette Kelly said it was “one of the biggest challenges” to transform the way the railway industry approaches recruitment and progression and having it start to reflect its customer base.

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