More travel chaos expected as train drivers vote to strike over pay dispute

11 July 2022, 16:51 | Updated: 11 July 2022, 23:11

More train strikes are set to cripple the UK
More train strikes are set to cripple the UK. Picture: Alamy

By Lauren Lewis

Rail passengers will be faced with more summer train chaos as two more unions vote to strike.

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More than 6,000 TSSA rail union members at Network Rail have voted for strike action - and action short of a strike - in a dispute over pay, conditions and job security.

The workers are in a wide range of operational roles, including engineering, maintenance, supervisory, support and control.

TSSA is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

As well as TSSA members, members of the ASLEF train drivers' union at eight train companies voted "overwhelmingly" to take industrial action over a pay dispute.

The ballot results were among drivers at Chiltern, GWR, LNER, London Overground, Northern, Southeastern, TransPennine and West Midlands.

Train drivers are seeking for their first pay rises since 2019, the union said. There will be more talks this week.

"Strikes are always the last resort," said Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union.

"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 driven by the government.

"Many of our members – who were, you will remember, the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic – have not had a pay rise since 2019.

Strikes cause chaos for train passengers
Previous train strikes caused chaos for rail passengers. Picture: Alamy

"With inflation running at north of 10 per cent 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.

"Being a train driver is a professional, technical, and safety-critical job.

"It takes a year to train a driver who can be responsible for the lives of up to 1,300 people on any journey."

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Mr Whelan added: "We don’t think we’re special; we believe no worker in this country should put up with pay cuts year after year just because this government has allowed inflation to rise.

"Whatever happened to the Tory wish for good, well-paid, jobs? Obviously that’s only for the CEOs, not for the workers doing the job.

"And, don’t forget, if a train driver doesn’t get a cost of living increase, it won’t mean that a nurse, or care worker, or cleaner will get one.

"This isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about setting one worker against another.

"Wage rises aren’t exacerbating inflation, anyway. Excess profiteering is. The government isn’t asking companies to cut profits or dividend payments to help manage inflation.

"Wages are chasing prices, not putting them up. It’s not too late for the companies – or the government – to resolve this situation."

Drivers are seeking for their first pay rises since 2019, the union said.
Drivers are seeking for their first pay rises since 2019, the union said. Picture: Alamy

He said: "We’re happy to talk to anyone to do a deal and make sure Britain’s railways aren’t disrupted. The government is restricting what the operators can offer, but then refusing to get involved in negotiation.

"They seem to have no interest in finding a resolution.

"Train drivers were asked two questions: Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of a strike? Are you prepared to take part in industrial action consisting of a strike?"

No dates have yet been set for the strikes.

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