Image above: London Overground services run through Gunnersbury Station in Chiswick
More nationwide strikes set to cause severe disruption
Train drivers have joined other railway workers in voting to strike this summer. Drivers from eight train companies associated with the ASLEF union have voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay.
The decision comes after passengers faced major disruption in June due to separate strike action by 40,000 rail workers in the RMT union..
RMT members 13 train companies and Network Rail walked out in what was the biggest rail strike in 30 years. Talks between the RMT union and rail operators resumed on Tuesday (12 July).
The RMT had already announced a strike for 27 July, the day before the Commonwealth Games opens in Birmingham.
The train operators involved in the RMT action are Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern, South Western Railway, Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and GTR (including Gatwick Express).
The Aslef ballot results are among drivers at Chiltern, GWR, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine and West Midlands.
Gunnersbury Station and Chiswick Station are served by London Overground and South Western Railway trains respectively.
- Wednesday 27 July: RMT workers, including guards and signalling staff, employed by Network Rail and 14 rail companies will stage a 24-hour walkout.
- Saturday 30 July: Train drivers at eight train operators who are members of Aslef union will go on strike over pay.
- Thursday 18 August and Saturday 20 August: RMT workers will walk out again if dispute not resolved.
“Strikes are always a last resort”
Mick Whelan, General Secretary of ASLEF, said:
“Strikes are always the last resort… We don’t want to inconvenience passengers – our friends and families use public transport, too – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies driven by the government.
“Many of our members – who were, you will remember, the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic – have not had a pay rise since 2019.
“With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years. We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row. Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways – with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers – and train drivers don’t want to work longer for less.”
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the government and rail industry needed to understand that the “dispute will not simply vanish”, calling for a pay offer which “helps deal with the cost-of-living crisis, job security for our members and provides good conditions at work”.
“Further misery” for commuters, says DfT
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who has just launched a failed bid to be the next Conservative Party Leader and Prime Minister, Tweeted that it wasn’t “fair for train drivers to hurt those on lower wages with more walkouts”.
The Department for Transport urged the union to reconsider. It said train drivers earn, on average, just under £60,000 per year – more than twice the UK median salary.
A spokesperson said:
“It is very disappointing that, rather than commit to serious dialogue with the industry, ASLEF are first seeking to cause further misery to passengers by joining others in disrupting the rail network.”
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said:
“Instead of causing further disruption to passengers and businesses, we urge the ASLEF leadership to continue talks.”
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said:
“By announcing even more strike dates, the RMT has dropped any pretence that this is about reaching a deal.”
He said the best interests of passengers and staff is taking “second place to the union’s bosses’ political campaign”.
Earlier this week, Network Rail made workers a fresh pay offer it said was worth more than 5% – but the offer depended on workers accepting “modernising reforms”.
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