Rail Strikes: What You Need To Know About This Week's Walkout

·5-min read
Aslef members at a picket line at Willesden Junction station in London last Saturday (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)
Aslef members at a picket line at Willesden Junction station in London last Saturday (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Aslef members at a picket line at Willesden Junction station in London last Saturday (Photo: Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images)

Rail strikes have already caused significant disruption this summer, and more is yet to come, as unions continue to push for better pay and working conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) already led strikes on June 21, 23 and 25, with a subsequent walkout on July 27.

On Saturday August 13, employees at nine rail companies walked out, too.

But, with National Rail and train companies refusing to budge over certain issues, four more days of strikes are set to hit the UK in the next two weeks.

Why are people striking?

The RMT strikes revolve around job security, pay and working conditions.

The union has hit out at Network Rail’s offer to increase pay by just 4% (followed by another 2% next year and a further 2% dependent on achieving “modernisation milestones”).

RMT is looking for salaries to increase in line with inflation, which is at a 40-year-high of 9.4%, meaning the cost of living crisis is squeezing workers across the country.

RMT general-secretary Mick Lynch – who has become famous for putting politicians in their place – said employees were “more determined that ever” to continue with strikes until their demands are met.

He alleged that Network Rail had not updated their last offer and instead were threatening compulsory redundancies.

He said: “Strike action is the only course open to us to make both the rail industry and government understand that this dispute will continue for as long as it takes until we get a negotiated settlement.”

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of Aslef, the driver’s union, explained that its members were also striking due to pay.

He said: “Many of our members – who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic – have not had a pay rise since 2019.”

TSSA (Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association) members are pushing back against pay, jobs and conditions and are currently balloting members for industrial action, while London Underground workers are striking on a different day over pensions and jobs.

Three more strikes are planned right now – Thursday August 18 and Saturday August 20, with an extra London Underground strike on Friday August 19.

What’s happening on Thursday August 18 and Saturday August 20? 

This strike is organised by the RMT and 40,000 workers are set to walk out, half of whom are from Network Rail, including signalling and track maintenance workers. The remainder are from 14 train operating companies:

  • Chiltern Railways

  • CrossCountry

  • Great Anglia

  • Hull Trains

  • London Northwestern Railway

  • LNER

  • East Midlands Railway

  • c2c

  • Great Western Railway

  • Northern Trains

  • South Eastern

  • South Western Railway

  • TransPennine Express

  • Avanti West Coast

  • West Midlands Train

  • GTR (including Gatwick Express)

  • London Overground

What’s happening on Friday August 19?

A 24-hour tube strike is set to hit London Underground.

RMT claims it was prompted by TfL’s “refusal” to share the government’s proposals for funding the system, with Lynch alleging union members have been “messed around by TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan.”

The strike could be called off, if TfL provides assurances on jobs, pensions and working conditions.

Overnight action also continues to affect the Central, Jubilee, Northern and Victoria lines every Friday and Saturday until December 6.

London Overground employees working for Arriva Rail London will strike too.

How have rail employers responded?

National Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller alleged that RMT “walked away from ongoing and constructive talks” and let “their political campaign” take precedence over representing their members’ interests.

Chair of the Rail Delivery Group, Steve Montgomery, also dismissed Aslef’s strikes, saying: “The Aslef leadership has for the second time in as many weeks, decided to impose yet more uncertainty for passengers and businesses by disrupting passengers’ weekend plans.”

He called for Aslef to go to the negotiation table so that train operations could return to normal.

Mayor Khan appeared to step away from the strikes in June, claiming that he didn’t believe there were grounds for cutting workers’ pensions, but adding: “It’s for the government to make the case.”

He claimed in July that he would even join RMT’s picket line if he wasn’t too busy with work.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has repeatedly condemned the strikes, and particularly hit out at the train drivers who are striking, claiming: “On a salary of almost £60,000 it isn’t fair for train drivers to hurt those on lower wages with more walkouts.”

The government has also floated new minimum service requirements, so a certain number of trains would have to run during a strike although that may not come into place for months.

A spokesperson for TfL said: “Strikes are bad news for everyone, and we urge Unite and RATP to reach agreement and avoid the need for industrial action.”

What about buses?

Bus drivers in London who are associated with Unite union and employed by London United will also be striking on Friday August 19 and Saturday August 20.

Fulwell, Hounslow, Hounslow Heath, Park Royal, Shepherd’s Bush, Stamford Brook and Tolworth depots will all be impacted by the drivers’ walkout.

It comes down another disagreement over pay, as employees were offered a pay increase of 3.6% in 2022, and 4.2% the following year, which is still below inflation.

This strike will include more than 1,600 workers and mainly affect west London.

It means there will be no night bus services on either day, and TfL is advising people to only use its services if they have to.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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