ASLEF: Industrial action begins on Friday

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Train drivers at 16 TOCs [train operating companies] begin a week of industrial action tomorrow [Friday 1 December] in a long-running dispute over pay. The action is likely to bring Britain’s railways to a standstill.

Members will walk out at EMR and LNER on Saturday 2 December; at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink, and WMT on Sunday 3 December; at C2C and Greater Anglia on Tuesday 5 December; at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, SWR main line, SWR depot drivers, and Island Line on Wednesday 6 December; at CrossCountry and GWR on Thursday 7 December; and at Northern and TPT on Friday 8 December.

All members will also refuse to work any overtime from Friday 1 to Saturday 9 December.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, said: ‘We are going on strike again not to inconvenience passengers, but to express our disgust at the intransigence of this government, and the bad faith shown by the private companies which employ us. 

‘It is clear that the Tory government does not want to resolve this dispute. We haven’t had a meeting with Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, since December 2022. We haven’t had a meeting with Huw Merriman, the Rail Minister, since January this year. And we haven’t heard from the employers, the private sector train operating companies for whom we work, since April.

‘We are prepared to come to the table and negotiate but the TOCs – and the Tories that stand behind them in what is turning into a political, rather than an industrial, dispute – CBA. They simply can’t be bothered. They are happy to see this dispute rumble on, for passengers and businesses to suffer, and to drive Britain’s railways – once the envy of the world – into a managed decline.’

The rolling programme of one-day strikes and a nine-day overtime ban  which starts tomorrow [Friday] is designed to ratchet up the pressure on the 16 TOCs – and the Tories – to give train drivers who have not had an increase in salary for nearly five years [since April 2019] the pay rise they deserve.

We have, in the past, called everyone out on the same day; by spreading the strike action, for which members voted overwhelmingly, coupled with our ban on overtime across the week, the ramifications for the rail industry will be greater.

‘We are determined to win this dispute,’ said Mick, ‘and get a significant pay rise for train drivers who have not had an increase since 2019 while the cost of living, in that time, has soared. Don’t forget that inflation, at one point, was running at more than 12%.

Mark Harper disingenuously told the Transport Select Committee [on Wednesday 15 November] that we should put the offer the RDG made in April to our members.

‘But that offer – which Mr Harper forgot to mention – has already been rejected so it is not, as he misleadingly tried to claim, “on the table”.

‘Mr Harper, who has been missing in action during this dispute, apparently fails to understand that, since April, we have received overwhelming mandates, on enormous turnouts, for more industrial action! So our members have spoken and we know what they think. Every time they vote for industrial action in pursuit of a proper pay rise it is a clear rejection of the offer  made in April.’ 

Mick added: ‘The RDG’s offer – a land grab for all our terms and conditions – was made in the full knowledge that it couldn’t – and wouldn’t – be accepted.’

Our strikes have forced TOCs to cancel services and the ban on overtime has seriously disrupted the network as none of the train companies employs enough drivers to provide a proper service – the service they have promised passengers and businesses they will deliver – without asking drivers to work their rest days.

We have successfully struck pay deals with 14 companies in the last 12 months. They include freight companies, open access operators, Eurostar, and passenger companies in Scotland and Wales where transport is devolved. But we have been unable to do a deal with the 16 TOCs in England controlled by the government.

That’s why Mick says: ‘This is a dispute in England made at Westminster by the Tory government.’

We also offered the TOCs a way out of this dispute which they chose not to accept. Because the government interfered. We suggested a significant across the board increase for all drivers, at all the companies involved, to deal with the cost-of-living crisis. Other matters, we said, could then be dealt with company by company. Because t&cs are different at each company.

Uncoupling the carriages, as it were, would have given the TOCs, and the government, and passengers, light at the end of the tunnel. And given us an opportunity to deal, at company council level, with any changes and productivity they want. Some TOCs have Sundays in the working week, some don’t. One size does not – cannot and will not – fit all.

‘We will continue to take industrial action until the train companies – and/or the government – sits down and negotiates with us in good faith,’ said Mick.

 

Industrial action fact file: 

The 16 companies with which we are in dispute: 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 Trains; and West Midlands Trains.

We have called 14 one-day strikes during this 18-month dispute. Our first ballots went out in June last year and our members withdrew their labour on Saturday 30 July 2022; Saturday 13 August; Saturday 1 October; Wednesday 5 October; Saturday 26 November; Thursday 5 January 2023; Wednesday 1 February; Friday 3 February; Friday 12 May; Wednesday 31 May; Saturday 3 June; Friday 5 September; Saturday 30 September; and Wednesday 4 October.

We have also withdrawn rest day working – as the rail industry calls non-contractual overtime, which is, of course, voluntary, not mandatory – from Monday 15 to Saturday 20 May; from Monday 3 to Saturday 8 July; from Monday 17 to Saturday 22 July; from Monday 31 July to Saturday 5 August; from Monday 7 to Saturday 12 August; on Friday 29 September, and from Monday 2 to Friday 6 October.

 

For more information please contact:

Keith Richmond

020 7324 2407 | 07977 498794

richmondk@aslef.org.uk