Rail union Aslef’s general secretary has said he “hasn’t seen anyone from government” since 6 January, as workers start a wave of strikes, bringing trains to a halt across the country.
“They are not interested, they don’t care, they are not interested in a resolution to this dispute,” he told Kay Burley’s Sky News Breakfast show from the picket line in Newcastle this morning. “It seems to us that the government and employers don’t want a deal.”
In an earlier appearance on Nick Ferrari’s LBC show, he warned that “we are further away than ever” to a resolution, adding that “this is a Westminster problem.”
The RMT and ASLEF unions have both called the action after talks with the Department for Transport (DfT) failed. Both unions have hit out at the government’s negotiating strategy.
Whelan told Sky News that “rail workers did their jobs during the pandemic, and the cost of living crisis hits everyone, and what we seem to have is a Government who wants to take all our terms and conditions for a 20 per cent pay cut.”
“When we get a deal that’s acceptable, we’ll let you know, but at this moment in time, we’ve been back into talks after deceit at Christmas, and experienced more deceit.”
He insisted that ASLEF would “want a resolution tomorrow if we can get one” but reiterated that it was the government and Transport Secretary Mark Harper’s fault for the delays to the dispute ending. “Unfortunately Kay, I retire in three years so I hope they are sorted by then.”
Rail strikes have pummelled businesses and commuters over the last year. UKHospitality – the trade body for hospitality businesses – estimates that the cost of the strikes for the sector this week would be £132m.
A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, said: “The rail strikes called by the Aslef and RMT leadership will not only affect our passengers’ daily commute, but will also impact those travelling from to the FA Cup final and other events across the country, causing disappointment and frustration for tens of thousands of people.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “These strikes have been coordinated by union leaders to disrupt passengers in a week which will see major events such as the first ever all Manchester FA Cup final, the Epsom Derby and a number of concerts and festivals across the UK.”
“Not content with impacting the hundreds of thousands of people who have looked forward to these events all year round, unions are also targeting their own members’ pockets by forcing them to miss out on pay every time they strike.”
“The Government has facilitated a fair and reasonable pay offer, now union leaders must do the right thing and put this to their members.”