New strikes called as rail dispute goes on

Members of ASLEF will be going on strike over pay at 12 operators on 15 September, bringing a new round of disruption to railways in England. Intercity services in Scotland and Wales will also be affected.

Members of TSSA, who work in clerical and management grades, are also walking out at nine operators for 24 hours from midday on 26 September.

ASLEF says it represents 96 per cent of train drivers. The union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘We regret that, once again, passengers are going to be inconvenienced.

‘Because we don’t want to go on strike – withdrawing our labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort for a trade union – but the train companies have forced our hand.

‘They want train drivers to take a real terms pay cut – to work just as hard this year as last, but for 10 per cent less. Because inflation is now in double figures and heading higher, much higher, according to some forecasts, and yet the train companies have offered us nothing. And this for train drivers who kept Britain moving – key workers and goods around the country – throughout the pandemic and who have not had an increase in salary since 2019.

‘We want the companies – which are making big profits, and paying their chief executives enormous salaries and bonuses – to make a proper pay offer to help our members keep up with the increase in the cost of living. That’s why we are calling on the companies today to do the right thing – the decent thing – and come back to the negotiating table with an offer our members can accept.’

The companies affected are Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground, Northern Trains, Southeastern, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains.

ASLEF has already staged strikes on 30 July and 13 August at nine operators, but has now obtained ballot majorities at three more – Chiltern Railways, Northern and TransPennine Express.

However, it has reached agreement on pay increases at DB Cargo, Eurostar, Freightliner Heavy Haul, Freightliner Intermodal, GB Railfreight, Merseyrail, MTR Elizabeth line, PRE Metro Operations (which runs the Stourbridge Town branch) and ScotRail, while negotiations are taking place with Direct Rail Services and Transport for Wales. Union members at Colas are currently considering an offer from that company.

The TSSA strike for 24 hours on 26 and 27 September will affect Network Rail General Grades (Bands 5-8) and Controllers, Avanti West Coast, c2c, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, LNER and Southeastern. The union had already staged walkouts at these companies, on 18 and 20 August.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: ‘The dead hand of Grant Shapps is sadly stopping DfT train operating companies from making a revised, meaningful offer.

‘Frankly, he either sits across the negotiating table with our union or gets out of the way to allow railway bosses to freely negotiate with us, as they have done in the past.

‘The reason for the current impasse lies squarely at Shapps’ door and passengers are paying a high price for his incompetence and intransigence.

‘I welcome the fact that negotiations are ongoing with Network Rail and the gap towards a resolution is narrowing. Time will tell whether a deal can be done to avert our next strike.’

When the results of the latest ASLEF ballots were announced on 25 August, the Rail Delivery Group said: ‘We want to give our people a pay rise, but to fund it unions must recognise that as an industry that has lost 20 per cent of its revenue, we can either adapt or decline.

‘Instead of causing further disruption to passengers and businesses, we urge the ASLEF leadership to continue talks so we can change our services to meet new travel patterns, improve punctuality and secure a bright, long-term future for our people.’

The Department for Transport said: ‘For the ninth time this summer, union leaders are choosing self-defeating strike action over constructive talks, not only disrupting the lives of millions who rely on these services but jeopardising the future of the railways and their own members' livelihoods.

‘These reforms deliver the modernisations our rail network urgently needs, are essential to the future of rail, and will happen. Strikes will not change this.’

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