Aslef offer 'on the table' to take train driver salaries to £65k - as transport sec urges union to put offer to members

13 December 2023, 10:28 | Updated: 13 December 2023, 12:25

Mark Harper said Aslef members should get a chance to vote on the pay deal
Mark Harper said Aslef members should get a chance to vote on the pay deal. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The Transport Secretary has urged the head of the Aslef union to put an existing pay offer to striking train drivers and "stop disrupting the railways".

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Mark Harper told LBC's Nick Ferrari that the offer to take an average salary of a train driver to £65,000 is "on the table".

"We're not going to throw more money at train drivers," he vowed during a phone-in on the show.

One of the callers was Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan, whose members recently voted for another six months of industrial action.

Mr Whelan told Mr Harper: "We've experienced nothing but bad faith since you took over. But we are willing to meet you anytime in the next two weeks if you're willing to resolve this situation."

Read more: Rail misery continues as train drivers vote to go on strike for another six months

Read more: Rail strike threat ends until at least Spring as RMT union votes to accept pay deal

Mick Whelan's message to Mark Harper

Mr Harper replied: "When I first became Transport Secretary, I thought it was important to try and get a better dialogue between the department and trade union leaders. I met all of them.

"And you'll know now that we solved the dispute on Network Rail. Just recently, the RMT put the pay offer that was on the table to its members, and they overwhelmingly accepted it.

"So there's only one union now that's got a dispute, which are the train drivers, Aslef, represented by Mick Whelan.

"There is an offer on the table. It would take the average salary of a train driver from an average of £60,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week, to just under £65,000 for that 35-hour, four-day week.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper takes part in a live phone-in on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show
Transport Secretary Mark Harper takes part in a live phone-in on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast show. Picture: Alamy

"It's on the table. The table everyone says I should get round, it's there. We're not going to throw more money at train drivers."

Mr Harper added that Mr Whelan "really should take the offer that's on the table, put it to his members, and ask them if they want to accept it. He hasn't done. I want trained drivers to get a pay rise and to stop disrupting the railways."

The Transport Secretary was challenged by Matthew, a train driver who phoned in later, who said: "You’re on about Aslef wasting taxpayers’ money.

"Can you just let us know and let the public know how much the DfT are paying [train operating companies] on each strike day?"

Aslef picket line at Leeds Station
Aslef picket line at Leeds Station. Picture: Alamy

Mr Harper denied saying that the drivers were wasting taxpayers' money. He said: "When I was travelling, I sat down for nearly an hour with some of your colleague train drivers, and they were very clear that they wanted to vote on the deal."

Matthew hit back that Mr Harper might have a different experience if he spent some time with drivers at his station.

Addressing the issue of wasted money, the Transport Secretary said: "At the moment, the train operating companies are contracted to DfT."

He explained that "post-pandemic, all of the revenue goes to the Treasury, all of the cost land on the taxpayer, which means that if there’s a strike day, the cost does fall on the taxpayer.

"That’s because the taxpayer is subsidising the rail network every year by £12 billion.

"Which is why when we think about the pay rise that’s on the table, it has to be fair to drivers like Matthew - I want Matthew to have a pay rise - but it also has to be fair to the taxpayers who are effectively paying Matthew’s wages.

Aslef members have voted to go on strike again
Aslef members have voted to go on strike again. Picture: Alamy

Mr Harper did not give exact figures for losses on strike days, but said: "[Striking] is very expensive and it has a big hit on the economy."

The original pay offer was made in January this year, and was rejected by Aslef leadership without being put to the members.

Mick Whelan
Mick Whelan. Picture: Alamy

Announcing the new strike action after the vote earlier this month, Mr Whelan said: "We are in this for the long haul.

"Our members who have not had a pay rise for nearly five years now are determined that the train companies and the Tory government that stands behind them do the right thing."

"The cost of living has soared since the spring and summer of 2019, when these pay deals ran out.

"The bosses at the train companies - as well as Tory MPs and government ministers - have had increases in pay. It's unrealistic and unfair to expect our members to work just as hard for what, in real terms, is considerably less."

Meanwhile RMT members agreed in late November to a deal that included a backdated pay rise of 5% for 2022-2023, as well as job security guarantees.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

The Israeli Iron Dome air defence system launches to intercept missiles fired from Iran

Israel hails ‘success’ in blocking Iran’s unprecedented attack

Planning documents show the owners of the pub want to rebuild it in a new location.

Owners of Crooked House agree to rebuild ‘Britain’s wonkiest pub’ - providing it's in a new location

Joe Biden has reaffirmed the US's commitment to defending Israel's security.

Biden reaffirms ‘ironclad support' of Israel as he plans G7 meeting to coordinate ‘diplomatic response to Iran attack’

The IDF said over 300 weapons were fired by Iran.

‘Together we will win’: Netanyahu vows to fight off attacks from Iran after over 300 drones and missiles fired at Israel

Israeli's military have fought off a massive Iranian drone and missile attack - downing more than 200 weapons launched by the hostile state with the help of ace RAF pilots.

Israel fights off massive Iran attack - downing over 200 missiles and drones with help of RAF

Plans have been drawn up for an evacuation of Brits from the Middle East. Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (l) and protesters outside the British Embassy in Tehran (r)

Brits living in the Middle East could be rescued by the Royal Marines in 'Dunkirk-style' evacuation

The knifeman who killed six people in a rampage at a Sydney shopping centre has been named as 40-year-old Joel Cauchi (left)

Pictured: Sydney knifeman, 40, who killed six people before being shot dead by brave policewoman

Iranian drones and missiles have arrived in Israel with explosions in the skies - as officials warn of a "significant response" to the massive attack.

Explosions in skies and sirens across Jerusalem amid Iranian attack - as Israel warns of 'significant response'

USS Bataan which is heading to the Eastern Mediterranean (main) and Joe Biden (r)

US sends amphibious warship and 2,500 Marines into the Eastern Mediterranean after Iran attacks Israel

US and UK forces are helping defend Israel from Iranian drones and missiles after a massive attack was launched.

British and American jets 'shoot down Iranian drones' as Rishi Sunak slams Iran for 'reckless' attack against Israel

President Biden is holding an emergency national security meeting as the US prepares its response to Iran's drone and missile attack on Israel.

President Biden holds high-stakes emergency meeting as Iran launches full-scale attack on Israel

Iron Dome Rocket Interceptions of Hamas Rockets- Southern Israel- Night Attack On Ashdod City

Israel closes airspace as it braces for Iranian drone attack

Iranian attack drones are 'en route to Israel', according to an Israeli Defence Force spokesperson.

Iran launches massive drone and missile attack on Israel as war in Middle East escalates

A mother who was stabbed while trying to defend her baby from the Sydney shopping centre knifeman has been pictured for the first time.

Pictured: Mother, 38, killed defending her baby from Sydney shopping centre massacre

Nearly 18,000 police officers were hired virtually by forces, prompting fears of another Wayne Couzens, LBC can reveal.

Nearly 18,000 police officers hired without face-to-face interviews by forces prompting fears of new Wayne Couzens

Lee Anderson's wife has been suspended by the Conservative party after being allegedly spotted campaigning for her husband's party Reform UK.

Lee Anderson's Tory councillor wife suspended from party after appearing to campaign for Reform in Ashfield