Train drivers at five operators vote to continue strike action for six months

14 February 2024, 17:04

Industrial strike
Industrial strike. Picture: PA

Aslef announced that its members on Chiltern, c2c, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine railways had overwhelmingly backed carrying on action.

Train drivers at five rail operators have voted to continue taking strike action for six months in the long-running dispute over pay and conditions.

Aslef announced that its members on Chiltern, c2c, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine railways had overwhelmingly backed carrying on with action.

Unions involved in disputes have to reballot their members every six months on continuing with industrial action.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef said: “These results show – yet again – a clear rejection by train drivers of the ridiculous offer put to us in April last year by the Rail Delivery Group on behalf of the train operating companies with whom we are in dispute.

“The RDG knew the offer would be rejected because we had told them that a land grab for all the terms and conditions we have negotiated over the years would be unacceptable.

“Since then our members have voted, time and again, for strikes. That’s why Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, is being disingenuous when he says that offer should have been put to members.

“Drivers obviously wouldn’t vote for industrial action, again and again and again, if they thought that was a good offer. They don’t.

“That offer was dead in the water in April last year – and I think Mr Harper knows that.”

Aslef members at Chiltern Railways voted by 94% to continue striking, by 89% on c2c, by 90% on East Midlands Railway, by 93% on Northern Trains and by 95% on TransPennine Trains.

The turnout on all the ballots was at least 70%.

Mr Whelan said the union remained open and willing to talk about a revised offer.

“That’s why we are asking the Secretary of State for Transport, or the Rail Minister Huw Merriman, to come and meet us,” he said.

“Mr Harper hasn’t seen fit to talk to us since December 2022; Mr Merriman has not been in the room with us since January 2023; and the RDG has not talked to us since April last year.

“Today we are saying, clearly, to Mr Harper, Mr Merriman, the RDG and the TOCs (train operators): come and talk to us.

“Let’s sit around the table and negotiate. You don’t want any more strikes, and we do not want to be forced to take any more industrial action, although we have the renewed mandates to do just that.

“We want to find a resolution to this dispute, for members who have not had a pay rise since our last deals ran out in 2019, and the only way to resolve this dispute is for the employers, and the government that stands behind them, to come and talk to us.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “We want to give our people a pay rise, but the Aslef leadership need to recognise that in an industry where taxpayers are continuing to contribute an extra £54 million a week to keep services running post-Covid, any pay rise must be fair and sustainable.

“Instead of staging more damaging industrial action which will continue to result in huge disruption for our customers and staff, we call on the Aslef leadership to work with us to resolve this dispute and deliver a fair deal which makes the changes needed to make services more reliable and punctual and secure a bright, long-term future for our people.”

A Department of Transport spokesperson said: “Aslef is the only rail union continuing to strike.

“The Transport Secretary and rail minister have already facilitated talks to put this offer on the table – one which would take train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 up to £65,000.

“A decision to extend a strike mandate is not the same as a vote on this offer. Aslef need to do the right thing and put it directly to their members to resolve the dispute like all other rail unions have.”

By Press Association