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the Brighton Motive Power Depots

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Above the Joint Brighton Branch strike badge designed by Alan Ricketts & Jim Sayers





1982 was to become a major milestone for A.S.L.E.F. and its membership.

British Rail management wanted to implement flexible rostering which would mean footplate staff working a variable length day between 7 – 9 hours. The variable day meant doing away with the guaranteed 8 hour day, which A.S.L.E.F. had achieved after a long struggle back in 1919.

After long and protracted negotiations which also included an overtime ban and also a series of 24 hour strikes on one day each week this came to nothing as British Rail management would not move from their stance of ending the guaranteed 8 hour day the A.S.L.E.F. leadership called for an indefinite strike by all members.

So on Sunday 4th July at one minute past midnight the indefinite strike started. The two Brighton branches E.M.U.T. and M.T members became united to play their part in retaining this much valued condition of service. On Tuesday 6th July in the first week of the strike a series of special joint branch meetings of members from both branches being invited to attend were held. These meetings were to keep the membership informed of the latest positions of the A.S.L.E.F .leadership regarding the strike. This first joint branch meeting instructed that those A.S.L.E.F. members who where no longer fit for any driving duties to go to work as normal. These members where medically restricted and were employed to carry out such duties as railway messengers, mess room cleaners, and non clerical time clerks etc. These members would turn up at the special joint branch meetings to give details of the events that were happening with the depot.

As the strike progressed with the vast majority of train services in the country at a stand still with backing of the then Conservative Government the threat of mass dismissal of all striking A.S.L.E.F members from British Rail Management was made. This put all A.S.L.E.F members at under a great deal of pressure regarding their own future employment. The threat by British Rail Management to actually go ahead and dismiss the entire work force swayed some members to break ranks and return to work. Members where concerned not just about losing their jobs but also the effect on their hard earned pensions as many where nearing their retirement.At the special joint branch meeting held on Thursday 14th July it was decided that the next meeting would be held on the following Monday 19th July, this was the day British Rail Management had threatened to send out the dismissal notices. It was still British Rail Management’s intention to dismiss all striking A.S.L.E.F. members, if they had not returned back to work by that date.

Over the following weekend of 17th -18th July national talks where held between British Rail management and the A.S.L.E.F leadership, on the evening of Sunday 18th July a press statement from A.S.L.E.F. Head Office was released informing members to go back to work as normal from one minute past midnight on Monday 19th July. The A.S.L.E.F. leadership had decided to call off the strike and had conceded to British Rail managements new rostering principles of having a variable length day of 7-9 hours and also a reduction in the working week from 40 to 39 hours.

Aslef's defeat was bushwhacked by the resilient rail board over "flexible rostering". The T.U.C. even twisted the knife by urging the train drivers to return to work.

The special joint branch meeting on Monday 19th July still went ahead even though many A.S.L.E.F. members had adhered to the A.S.L.E.F. leadership instructions and had returned back to work. At the special joint branch meeting, the members offically call an end to the strike and it was also agreed that the anger from the Brighton membership was to be recorded into the way that the strike had been called off and the cherished 8 hour day had been conceded against the Brighton branches wishes.

ASLEF General Secretary Ray Buckton 1970 ~ 1987

"I can't hold my members back any longer" was Ray Buckton's favourite and ominous quote during spells of industrial strife on the railways.



Nine car D.E.M.U. at East Croydon, whilst working a semi-fast London Victoria to Brighton (via Quarry), 
note that the driver is nowhere to be seen in the cab whilst he is waiting for the guard's tip to departure.



Above the Brighton Joint Branch Strike Committee which incorperating members from all three depots Brighton M.T., Brighton E.M.U.T. & West Worthing E.M.U.T.

Alfie Smith, Roger Thomas, Bill MacKenzie, Phil Plaine, Norman Light, Dave Knight, John Trott, fred Locke, Laurie Osman, Trevor Fielding, Roy Swtman, Alan Ricketts, Mick Hawkins, Maurice Gray, Rod Saunders, Jimmy Southon & Graham Hussey.

(Please note the members telephone numbers have been ereased from this document)

Brighton Joint Branch Distress Funds as of the 16th July 1982.

The T. Ward Donation, relates to a donation from Brighton (No.2) A.S.L.E.F. member Tommy Ward.

Tom was one of a number of medically A.S.L.E.F. members of the Brighton Joint Branches, who were instructed to report for work as normal. Because they could not drive any trains and were desgnate to non driving duties around the depot, it was felt by these members working normally that they would have any implications to the end result of the strike.

At every branch meeting during the strike Tom would reported to the Branch of the latest activities from within the depots and across the division


Support from the Brighton Labour Party





Dear Sister/Brother,

You are invited to the July meeting of the Trades Union Council on 21st July at the Labour Club, 16 Lewes Road, Brighton at 7.45 p.m.


Bro. Plaine (ASLEF No.2) attending by invitation.


Strike Fund appeal sheet enclosed. Please take to your Branch meeting, workplace etc.

The British Rail Board, backed by the Tories are determined to smash ASLEF. If they succeed it will be your Union next!

Out of 200 ASLEF members in Brighton only one driver and two trainees are reporting for work!

*extracted from the agenda of the Brighton & Hove Trades Union Council


 THE 1982 A.S.L.E. & F DISPUTE


 by Phil Plaine

This article has been taken from the hand written notes by Phil Plaine, these notes were used as part of his address to the Brighton Trades Council shortly after the strike ended .


Looking back over the run up to the dispute, which first started with “1980 PAY SETTLEMENT” and the promise of a one hour reduction in the working week, before we accepted the 39 hour week. It would have been in our interest to have agreed on how this was to be implemented, as it happened the British Rail Board used it as a lever to force on us Flexible Rostering, which was the second item out of nineteen items which they had prepared on productivity which become known to us as their shopping list.

With the 1981 pay claim in May of that year the B.R.B. offered the unions 7% increase which was rejected and the claim went to the Railway Staff National Tribunal (R.S.N.T.) with Lord McCarthy, which found in our favour of 8% immediate + 3% payable in November. This descision (R.S.N.T. Decision 72) was rejected by the B.R.B. This was first time that happened that a decision at the R.S.N.T. had even been rejected by one of the parties involved. And with a treat of a strike in the August the dispute was taken to A.C.A.S. and a settlement reached on the 8% being paid + 3% in January 1982, but back dated to November 1981, due to a cash flow problem of British Rail. In a seperate agreement at A.C.A.S. it was agreed that the union would discuss certain aspects of productivity, Flexible Rostering being one of the items. It must be stressed that it was agreed to discuss, no commitment being made to reach agreememt.

In late December 1981 as the B.R.B. had made no progress with A.S.L.E & F. on Flexible Rostering they informed A.S.L.E & F. they were not prepared to pay the 3% pay increase outstanding from the pay claim. This led to A.S.L.E & F. taking strike action in January and February of 1982, which in all meant 17 days of stoppages (Tuesdays, Thursdays & Sundays). This become very damaging to Bitish Rail and they had to settle. Having pressure brought to bear on them, that they were wrong in with holding the 3% which had been agreed was a straight pay increase. It’s also being agreed they take their claim for Flexible Rostering back to the R.S.N.T. This resulted in the Tribunal finding in their favour Decision 77 which A.S.L.E & F. rejected, as A.S.L.E & F. considered the proposal unworkable.

The B.R.B. then made the decision to implement Flexible Rosters at a selected number of depots (see the list of depots bleow) in the hope that they could divide A.S.L.E & F and pick depots off one by one. But when the A.S.L.E & F. Executive Committee were informed of their plans they immediately called for an all out stoppage which began on Sunday 4th July.

Continues below.

 Above are a selection of B.R.B. typos that spelt out their determination to get their way over the Flexible Rostering issue.


 The list of depots that where going to have Flexible Rosters imposed upon them


1982 Strike editions of the Loco Journal 

 Management's version of Brighton E.M.U.T. roster 1982

 Anyone who had been following the developments of the dispute are aware of the tactics used by the B.R.B and the Tory press (The dirty trick department of the C.I.A. would have been proud of them). But with A.S.L.E & F.'s Executive Committee finding on Sunday 18th July that the General Purpose Committee of the T.U.C. had failed to support or assist A.S.L.E & F. To protect A.S.L.E & F. against the dictatorial actions of the B.R.B. and their threat to dismiss A.S.L.E & F.'s entire membership, A.S.L.E & F. was left with no choice but to call of the strike and get back to discussing the imposition of Flexible Rostering under duress.

Now at this stage of the dispute and do not say the end of the dispute. For A.S.L.E & F. have re-affirmed its commitment to the preservation of the eight hour day. A.S.L.E & F. begun to way up the losses and gains of both sides.

It was felt that A.S.L.E & F. as a trade union found a greater inner strength, even greater than A.S.L.E & F. realised, a depth of loyalty and determination which passes right through the ranks, young & old.

A.S.L.E & F. had found out who our friends are locally and nationally, those that gave A.S.L.E & F. moral & financial support. A.S.L.E & F. had also became aware of the cancerous friends and groups within the Trade Union and Labour movement of the country. E.g. the moderate Trade Union Leaders (so called Leaders) who the Tory press lavish praised upon, the Labour M.P. who resided in the Brighton area who gave such good service to the Tory media with his attack on A.S.L.E & F., the Shadow Cabinet Ministers who attacked their leader after he tried to mediate and was accused of being a Strikers Friend.

Of our losses in money which throughout the dispute must be around £700 each I can honestly say I have yet to hear any member complain about.

We have for the time being lost the eight hour day, but it was taken from us by dubious means under duress and A.S.L.E & F. as a Trade Union will be looking for its restoration.

What of B.R. gains and losses ?

They (the B.R.B.) have their Flexible Rosters Agreements which they may find nowhere near as productive as they hoped, this must be set up against their losses of £200 million plus lost business, but above all they lost the goodwill and cooperation of the A.S.L.E & F. membership and a large section of the N.U.R. train crew membership and this goodwill will remain lost whilst the present B.R.B. remain.

by Phil Plaine

L.D.C. Secretary Brighton E.M.U.T .






It was on return to work of A.S.L.E.F. members that the true picture started to immerge of what had taken place over the previous two weeks. Mess rooms across the country, which where once fairly harmonious places, became a battle ground, between loyal members and those members who decided to go back to work before the strike had been called off. In many cases it was not the fact that a member had decided to return to work, but the fact that some had worked a considerable amount of overtime. What made matters much worse was that some of these Drivers then started to boast about how much they had earned at the expense of their fellow colleagues who had stayed loyal and had lost 2 weeks pay with the resulting financial hardship that entailed.

This would become such an issue that there is still animosity between Drivers that worked and those that did not to this day.

With the introduction of the new method of rostering Brighton E.M.U.T. and M.T. Depots Local Departmental Committee (L.D.C.) would have to agree their own rosters with the local depot manager. The major changes to the way the roster was to be compiled was that the roster would be sub-divided into an 8 week block with a minimum of 9 rest days and a maximum of 312 hours to equate to the 39 hour week in each 8 week cycle. The diagrams that Drivers would work to would consist of a variable length of between 7 - 9 hours. The longer the turns the more rest days would be required to fit into the 8 week cycle.

At Brighton the E.M.U.T.and M.T. depots L.D.C.’s took a different stance on this issue. Whilst other depots were still arguing over the pros and cons of the new rostering principles the Brighton M.T L.D.C. struck whilst the iron was hot a got an agreement to their roster The Mixed Traction depot devised a method of rostering and became the first L.D.C. in the area to get their roster agreed. Their roster contained a large amount (of grouped together) rest days. This roster showed a driver having up to 7 rest days (including a Sunday) rostered over a weekend. The Local Depot Manager for Brighton was so pleased that he was able to sign off the first roster within the Brighton area. But it was only later after Drivers started working to this roster that Management realised that what had been agreed was not going to be such as productive as management had hoped for.

The Brighton E.M.U.T. L.D.C. decided to produce a rolling roster whereby every eight weeks the drivers would move from one 8 week block to another and then rotate around that 8 week block before moving on to another. This would ensure that every driver would work 312 hours every 8 weeks. This method of rostering was to cause major problems amongst the membership. It was sometime later that this roster was done away with (see branch minutes below).

Flexible rostering was perused by British Rail management under the belief that footplate staff would become more productive and reduce the amount of Drivers required to run the train service. The harsh reality though was that the cost of flexible rostering became exactly the opposite and very expensive.

This is because if a Driver had a spare turn (was not rostered to drive a train but was shown only a booking on time and could be rostered to cover another driver if they were not available for any reason). This spare turn was a certain length (i.e.8 hours)

If that Driver was then booked a duty that was shorter than the original hours (i.e. 7 hours) they would only work the hours they had been booked but still paid for their original hours. Also if a Driver was rostered a spare turn of 8 hours but had to work a diagram of 9 hours they would be paid the overtime. Under the original agreement of the 8 hour day all diagrams and spare turns were of the same length so this did not arise

This method of rostering, all these years later is still the basis of how today’s drivers rosters are produced with only variations between each company within the country.


The 1982 strike badge produced by ASLEF

The Central Division of the Southern Region 1982 strike badge

The Southern Region 1982 strike badge


Minutes from Brighton No.2 branch meetings of the 13.09.1984 & 11.10.1984 regarding the issue of the Brighton E.M.U.T.'s rolling rosters saga


Pay slips reflecting the two weeks of the 1982 strike


The South Central Division commemorative plate displays the individual A.S.L.E.F. loyalty badges from the various A.S.L.E.F. Branches & Depots.

A number of Branches/Depots produced two badges, one was for the loyal member and the second in a different colour was for general sale, to help fund the cost of the making of the badge.

For example West Worthing E.M.U.T. depot had 24 loyal members (100%) and their badge was made in black and the green badges (see below) was for general sale. Therefore these types of Branch/Depot only badges are very hard to find and they have become very sort after items by the various badge collectors.

The badges in clock wise order are: Brighton Nos.1&2 (Top), Seaford*, Tunbridge Wells West*, Tatternham Corner*, Littlehampton*, West Worthing*, Victoria "C", Three Bridges, Streatham Hill*, Redhill, Horsham, Eastbourne (Bottom), London Bridge, Coulsdon North*, Norwood, West Croydon*, Bognor Regis*, Epsom Downs, Battersea, Catterham, Ore* & Selhurst.

* Branches/Depots now closed.

 Above are the commemorative plates for the South Eastern and South Western Divisions of the Southern Region. Each plate displays the individual A.S.L.E.F. loyalty badges from the various A.S.L.E.F. Branches & Depots within their Division.


West Worthing A.S.L.E.F. 1982 strike badges

Even though the A.S.L.E.F. members of West Worthing E.M.U.T. depot belonged to the Brighton No.2 Branch, the depot proudly produced their own depot strike badge, which indicates their depots' 100% loyalty to this historical strike by A.S.L.E.F. This was something the A.S.L.E.F.'s members at West Worthing was proud to boast.


Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


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