Travel News

April train strikes won’t be the last, union boss warns

Simon Calder’s Travel

As the latest round of strikes by train drivers begins across 14 rail firms, their union boss has warned of more stoppages to come in the long and bitter dispute over pay and working arrangements.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, told The Independent: “We are forced to raise the profile of the dispute on a regular basis.”

The government says it has offered a “fair and reasonable” deal that will increase train drivers’ average salaries from £60,000 to £65,000.

But the union leader said he felt “incredibly empowered” by repeated large majorities in favour of continuing strikes.

“I don’t want to be in dispute,” he said. “But when you’ve got the mandates that we have and the support that we have 22 months into a dispute, you can’t help but feel that you’re in it for the long haul.”

Listen to the interview with Mick Whelan on Simon Calder’s Independent Travel Podcast

In the current bout of industrial action, train drivers are walking out region-by-region – on Friday mainly affecting the West Coast main line, on Saturday the East Coast main line and Great Western Railway, and on Monday hitting London commuter services.

Most train operators are cancelling all services on the days they are affected by strikes.

In addition drivers are refusing to work overtime on five days, leading to more cancellations.

The dispute hinges on the union’s demand for a no-strings pay rise followed by local negotiation on changes to working arrangements – which are traditionally “sold” to train operators for additional increases.

But the government says that with rail revenue currently £8m per day lower per day than in 2019, any wage rise must be contingent on cost-saving changes to working practices.

Aslef has not negotiated with the train operators, who are represented by the Rail Delivery Group, for a year. Mr Whelan characterised the offer made then as: “Give up every national agreement, give up every local agreement, give up the right to negotiate a future and we’ll give you a 20 per cent pay cut, which didn’t fly, strangely enough, with our members.

“That maybe explains why we get such high mandates since that point in time.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Aslef is the only rail union continuing to strike, targeting passengers and preventing their own members from voting on the pay offer…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…