Anti-war train drivers refuse to move arms freight

Al Diablito aldiablito@hotmail.com
Mon, 13 Jan 2003 12:11:12 -0500


Anti-war train drivers refuse to move arms freight
By Kevin Maguire
Reprinted from 'The Guardian," Thursday January 9, 2003
[Posted 11 Janurary 2002]
****

Train drivers yesterday refused to move a freight train carrying ammunition 
believed to be destined for British forces being deployed in the Gulf.

Railway managers cancelled the Ministry of Defence service after the 
crewmen, described as "conscientious objectors" by a supporter, said they 
opposed Tony Blair's threat to attack Iraq.

The anti-war revolt is the first such industrial action by workers for 
decades.

The two Motherwell-based drivers declined to operate the train between the 
Glasgow area and the Glen Douglas base on Scotland's west coast, Europe's 
largest Nato weapons store.

English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWS), which transports munitions for the 
MoD as well as commercial goods, yesterday attempted to persuade the drivers 
to move the disputed load by tomorrow.

Leaders of the Aslef rail union were pressed at a meeting with EWS 
executives to ask the drivers to relent. But the officials of a union 
opposed to any attack on Iraq are unlikely to comply.

The two drivers are understood to be the only pair at the Motherwell freight 
depot trained on the route of the West Highland Line.

An EWS spokesman declined to confirm the train had been halted, although he 
insisted no drivers had refused to take out the trains.

"We don't discuss commercial issues," he said.

"The point about the two drivers is untrue and we don't discuss issues about 
meetings we have."

Yet his claim was flatly contradicted by a well-placed rail industry source 
who supplied the Guardian with the train's reference number.

The MoD later said it had been informed by EWS that mechanical problems, 
caused by the cold winter weather, had resulted in the train's cancellation.

One solution under discussion yesterday between the MoD and EWS was to 
transport the shipment by road to avoid what rail managers hoped would be an 
isolated confrontation.

Dockers went on strike rather than load British-made arms on to ships 
destined for Chile after the assassination of leftwing leader Salvador 
Allende in 1973.

In 1920 stevedores on London's East India Docks refused to move guns on to 
the Jolly George, a ship chartered to take weapons to anti-Bolsheviks after 
the Russian revolution.

Trade unions supporting workers who refuse to handle weapons could risk 
legal action and possible fines for contempt of court.

Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, said: "We fully 
support the action that has been taken to impede an unjust and aggressive 
war. We hope that other people around the country will be able to do 
likewise."

The anti-war group is organising a second national demonstration in central 
London on Saturday February 15. Organisers claimed more than 400,000 people 
attended a protest in September.


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