Summer of train strikes to get worse as militant drivers union votes for further walkout

27 July 2022, 16:46 | Updated: 27 July 2022, 18:09

Summer rail misery set to continue as union confirm more strikes in August
Summer rail misery set to continue as union confirm more strikes in August. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Megan Hinton

Train drivers at nine rail companies are to strike on August 13 over pay, their union Aslef announced amid worsening pay disputes which are causing travel chaos across the country.

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The announcement comes as the UK ground to a halt today during the latest round of strikes over workers' pay.

Drivers are already set to strike this Saturday at seven companies and on Wednesday Aslef members at two more train operators voted overwhelmingly for industrial action.

"Strikes are always the last resort," said Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef.

He continued: "We don't want to inconvenience passengers – our friends and families use public transport, too – and we don't want to lose money by going on strike but we've been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.

Read more: Shadow transport minister sacked after appearing on picket line

"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.

"With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years. We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.

"It's not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you're not worse off for three years in a row. Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain's railways – with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers – and train drivers don't want to work longer for less."

RMT Union Hold Rail Strikes Across The UK
RMT Union Hold Rail Strikes Across The UK. Picture: Getty

He added: "Let's nail a Tory lie. Wage rises aren't fuelling inflation. Excess profiteering is. But the government isn't asking companies to cut profits or dividend payments to help manage inflation. Wages are chasing prices, not putting them up.

"We don't see why we should forego an increase in salary to keep pace with inflation and help the privatised train companies make even bigger profits to send abroad."

The Government has told unions to reach an agreement with train companies.

Drivers at Avanti West Coast and CrossCountry voted by more than 9-1 to go on strike, it was announced on Wednesday.

They will strike on August 13 alongside drivers at Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.

Train drivers at nine rail companies are to strike on August 13
Train drivers at nine rail companies are to strike on August 13. Picture: Alamy

Only around 22% of services were running today, with just half of the network open, and services stopping at 6.30pm, meaning the last trains to many destinations were departing mid-afternoon.

Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations as thousands of members of the RMT at Network Rail and 14 train operators went on strike.

More strikes will take place in the coming days, and a wave of industrial action is planned for next month on the railways and London Underground.

Unions have reacted with anger to proposals by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to crack down on strikes amid the long-running rail dispute.

Read more: RMT boss accused of blocking 8% deal says it ‘doesn’t come close’ as strikes cripple UK

On Wednesday Mr Shapps set out a series of plans in a newspaper interview, including stopping co-ordinated industrial action, limiting picketing and having a cooling-off period after strikes.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "I'm looking at banning strikes by different unions in the same workplace within a set period.

"We should also place an absolute limit of six pickets at points of critical national infrastructure, irrespective of the number of unions involved, and outlaw intimidatory language.

"Ballot papers should also set out clearly the specific reason for industrial action and the form of action to be taken. In addition, before strike dates are announced, employers should have the right to respond to the issue cited on the ballot paper."

Read more: 'Do you want him evicted?': Mick Lynch defends RMT deputy living in council flat on £78k

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: "If Grant Shapps had his way we would all still be in the workhouse."

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: "The Government wants to turn the clock back to Victorian times when children were sent up chimneys and working people ruthlessly exploited."

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, said "coordinated and synchronised industrial action" would be needed if legislation is brought in.

He went on to say the "very dangerous situation" risks taking the country back to "Victorian times".

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: "The action announced by the Aself leadership shows a cynical approach to talks, a total disregard for passengers and is putting everyone's summer plans at risk.

"This action will bring the total number of strike days on the railway to 10, disrupting plans in June, July and August.

"Like any public service we have to change with the times, and it's only by making necessary reforms that we can give our people a pay rise.

"Now is not the time for further strikes, so we urge the Aslef leadership to resume talks to reach a deal that is fair to staff and taxpayers, and which secures a better, safer and more affordable railway."

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