Aslef union train drivers to strike again over pay

Aslef union train drivers to strike again over pay

Train drivers are to stage a fresh strike in the long-running dispute over pay, threatening more travel chaos for passengers.

Members of Aslef will walk out on September 1 and will ban overtime on September 2, the same day as a strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT).

Aslef said its strike will force train companies across England to cancel all services, while the ban on overtime will “seriously disrupt” the network.

The union maintains that none of the privatised train-operating companies employs enough drivers to provide a “proper service” without drivers working on their days off.

The companies affected are Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; c2c; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Greater Anglia; GTR Great Northern Thameslink; Great Western Railway; Island Line; LNER; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Southern/Gatwick Express; South Western Railway; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said: “We don’t want to take this action but the train companies, and the Government which stands behind them, have forced us into this place because they refuse to sit down and talk to us and have not made a fair and sensible pay offer to train drivers who have not had one for four years – since 2019 – while prices have soared in that time by more than 12%.

“The Government appears happy to let passengers – and businesses – suffer in the mistaken belief that they can bully us into submission.

“They don’t care about passengers, or Britain’s railway, but they will not break us.

“Train drivers at these companies have not had a pay rise for four years, since 2019, while inflation has rocketed,

A near-empty concourse at Paddington station in central London during an earlier Aslef strike day
A near-empty concourse at Paddington station in central London during an earlier Aslef strike day (PA)

“We haven’t heard a word from the employers – we haven’t had a meeting, a phone call, a text message, or an email – since April 26 and we haven’t had any contact with the government since January 6.

“This shows how the contempt in which the companies, and the government, hold passengers and staff and public transport in Britain.

“They are happy to let this drift on and on, but we are determined to get a fair pay rise for men and women who haven’t had one for four years while inflation has reached double figures.

“Our members, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy back in 2019.

It will be the 12th one-day strike by Aslef members since the dispute started over a year ago.

Mr Whelan warned of further industrial action if the deadlocked row continues, saying Aslef members were pressing the union to go “harder and faster.”

The RMT is also striking on August 26 in its dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The Rail Delivery Group advised passengers that due to the RMT strikes there will be reduced services across the rail network on August 26 and September 2.

A statement said: “Train companies are doing all they can to keep passengers moving, but those travelling during that period are advised to plan ahead and check before they travel.

“RMT union members such as station staff, train managers, and catering staff will participate in the strikes, causing some disruption to travel plans.

“As the level of disruption will vary across the country, passengers are advised to check their travel arrangements in advance. We expect that more than half of the service will be running across the country.”

The strikes are likely to see trains start later and finish much earlier than usual, with only around half of services in some areas, while other parts of the country will have fewer or no services at all.

It is likely that evening services on some lines will be affected on the days before each strike and on the mornings after strike days.

A sign warning passengers at Waterloo Station in London, of planned strikes
A sign warning passengers at Waterloo Station in London, of planned strikes (PA)

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: ”Further strike action by the Aslef leadership is unnecessary and will cause more disruption to passengers looking to enjoy various sporting events and the end of the summer holidays.

“The union leadership has its head in the sand and refuses to put our fair and reasonable offer to their members.

“The offer would increase the average driver base salary for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000 by the end of 2023.

“We want to give our staff a pay increase, but it has always been linked to implementing necessary, sensible reforms that would enhance services for our customers.

“We urge the Aslef leadership to acknowledge the substantial financial challenges facing the rail industry and work with us to achieve a more dependable and robust railway system for the future.”

The rail unions are also campaigning against controversial plans to close most railway ticket offices.

More than 300,000 people have responded to a consultation, which ends on September 1.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has played its part to try and end these disputes by facilitating fair and reasonable pay offers, taking train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 to £65,000, but union leaders refuse to give their members a vote.

“Aslef and the RMT are coordinating their strikes to try and cause as much disruption as they can, deliberately targeting the Bank Holiday weekend – which for many, is the last weekend of the school summer holidays.”