Train drivers from the ASLEF union are set to continue this week’s string of walkouts on Wednesday, halting services at a host of rail operators.
On rail strike days, no services will run at all on lines run by the affected companies. On overtime ban days, commuters can expect last minute cancellations and a reduced timetable.
Union members previously halted services at Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern Thameslink and West Midlands Railways last Sunday, and EMR and LNER on Saturday.
Operators affected this week include:
C2C and Greater Anglia: Tuesday 5 December.
Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, SWR main line, SWR depot drivers and Island Line: Wednesday 6 December.
CrossCountry and GWR: Thursday 7 December.
Northern and TPT: Friday 8 December.
What have the key players said?
The dispute centres around pay and working arrangements, with ASLEF demanding a salary increase for train drivers amid inflation and the cost of living crisis.
The union is also demanding local level negotiations aimed at modernising working practices.
Mick Lynch, ASLEF’s general secretary: “We are going on strike again not to inconvenience passengers, but to express our disgust at the intransigence of this government, and the bad faith shown by the private companies which employ us.”
“It is clear that the Tory government does not want to resolve this dispute. We haven’t had a meeting with Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, since December 2022. We haven’t had a meeting with Huw Merriman, the Rail Minister, since January this year. And we haven’t heard from the employers, the private sector train operating companies for whom we work, since April.
“We are prepared to come to the table and negotiate but the TOCs, and the Tories that stand behind them in what is turning into a political, rather than an industrial, dispute, CBA. They simply can’t be bothered. They are happy to see this dispute rumble on, for passengers and businesses to suffer, and to drive Britain’s railways – once the envy of the world – into a managed decline.”
Huw Merriman, rail minister: “Following RMT members voting to overwhelmingly accept the train operators’ pay offer, Aslef is now not just the only rail union still striking but the only union not to even put an offer to its members.”
“They are instead choosing to cause more misery for passengers and the hospitality sector this festive period.”
“The fair and reasonable offer that’s long been on the table would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000 for a 35-hour, four-day week.”
The Rail Delivery Group, the body which represents UK train operators: “The ASLEF leadership’s decision to call further industrial action means passengers still face disruption between 1-9 December, despite an offer remaining on the table which would see basic driver salaries increase from £60k to £65k for a four-day week.”
“We want to reach a fair agreement which will get more trains running on time and put the railway on a sustainable footing, at a time when taxpayers are contributing an extra £54m a week to keep services running post covid. Instead of staging more damaging industrial action, we call on ASLEF to work with us to resolve this dispute for the long-term good of everyone who works in rail and the millions of businesses and passengers who rely on it every day.”
How far off is a resolution?
The industrial dispute has continued for around 18 months. In a major breakthrough last week, the RMT, which represents staff including signallers and guards, accepted an offer from rail operators which effectively averted rail strikes until at least spring.
But the ASLEF dispute looks far from any similar resolutions. No meetings between government and the union have taken place since January amid a breakdown in relations.
And rail industry finances are still reeling from the affects of Covid-19, which decimated passenger numbers.
The union rejected a “risible” two-year offer in April, which would have seen drivers net a backdated pay rise of four per cent for 2022 and a four per cent increase this year. According to the Office for National Statistics, the median pay for train and tram drivers is just below £59,000.