Rail strikes to go ahead as ‘no-one’s coming to the table’, union leader says

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The industrial action planned for the end of July will mean ‘virtually no service’ in areas affected, Aslef’s Mick Whelan said (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)
The industrial action planned for the end of July will mean ‘virtually no service’ in areas affected, Aslef’s Mick Whelan said (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Archive)

Nationwide rail strikes planned for later this month are still due to go ahead, a union leader has said, as “no-one’s coming to the table” to find a way out.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said the industrial action planned for the end of July will mean “virtually no service” in areas affected.

“That saddens us – we’d much rather be talking to find a way out of this but unfortunately no-one’s coming to the table,” he told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

Members of Aslef at Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains will walk out on July 30 in a dispute over pay.

Drivers on Greater Anglia will also strike on July 23, and those on Hull Trains will strike on July 16 and 23.

The action is in addition to a planned strike by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at train companies and Network Rail on July 27 and by TSSA members on Avanti West Coast on the same day.

Members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train operators will also walk out on August 18 and 20.

Mr Whelan said Aslef has not put “an exact figure” on the pay rise it is looking for.

“Most people don’t understand that nobody in the rail industry has had a pay rise for three years… and the cost-of-living crisis is hitting all workers,” he said.

After saying that the median salary for a train driver is “roughly about £59,000”, Mr Whelan was asked whether ordinary working people might already consider this a lot of money.

We don’t enter into this politics of envy debate, for us it’s about everybody’s entitled to a pay rise

Mick Whelan, Aslef

“Probably to a lot of people it is, and I look at other workers and think they should have what he had,” he responded.

“We don’t enter into this politics of envy debate, for us it’s about everybody’s entitled to a pay rise.”

Mr Whelan went on to say that there are “a lot of traditionalists who would like to see occasionally (the Labour Party) stand up and stand with workers more regularly.”

When asked if he believes Labour is not doing enough to show it is on “the same side as working people”, he responded: “I’ve seen an awful lot of what they’ve done behind the scenes, so I’ve seen that there’s a massive amount being done – I just think that occasionally we should communicate more.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “Governments do not get involved with union talks, it hasn’t happened under Labour or Conservative Governments.

Industry is offering daily talks to the unions. We encourage the unions to stay at the negotiating table, and call off these strikes.”

The spokesperson said it was “simply untrue to claim no worker has had a pay rise in three years”.

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