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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Simon Calder

Fresh rail strikes in December as Aslef union members to walk out

Simon Calder

Rail strikes will resume in early December – but on a region-by-region basis. Train drivers belonging to the Aslef union will walk out on a range of days from 2 to 8 December.

Rather than an all-out national strike, cancellations will ripple across Britain during the course of the week as drivers at individual train operators stop work.

Each day apart from Monday 4 December, a different part of the country is to be targeted to cause maximum disruption.

In addition, a nine-day overtime ban will cause extra cancellations from 1 to 9 December inclusive.

Aslef says it is seeking a no-strings increase for “train drivers who have not had an increase in salary for four-and-a-half years”.

The train operators are represented in negotiations by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which in turn is directed by ministers – who will sign off any settlement. They insist any pay rise must be contingent on modernising working practices

An earlier offer from the RMT, in April, was rejected by the union leadership without being put to a vote.

The pattern announced by Aslef is:

  • Saturday 2 December: East Midlands Railway and LNER.
  • Sunday 3 December: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern, Great Northern, Thameslink and West Midlands Trains
  • Monday 4 December: no strikes
  • Tuesday 5 December: C2C and Greater Anglia
  • Wednesday 6 December: Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway
  • Thursday 7 December: CrossCountry and GWR
  • Friday 8 December: Northern and TransPennine Trains

Mick Whelan, Aslef’s general secretary, said: “We are determined to win this dispute and get a significant pay rise for train drivers who have not had an increase since 2019 while the cost of living, in that time, has soared.”

He accused the transport secretary, Mark Harper, of going “missing in action during this dispute”.

Mr Whelan said: “Our members have spoken and we know what they think. Every time they vote – and they have voted overwhelmingly – for strike action in pursuit of a proper pay rise it is a clear rejection of the offer that was made in April.

“The RDG’s offer – a land grab for all our terms and conditions – was made in the full knowledge that it couldn’t – and wouldn’t – be accepted.”

Since the national strikes began in the summer of 2022, train drivers belonging to Aslef have walked out on 14 previous occasions.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “This wholly unnecessary strike action called by the Aslef leadership will sadly disrupt customers and businesses ahead of the vital festive period.

“The fair and affordable offer made by industry, which would take average driver base salaries for a four-day week from £60,000 to nearly £65,000, remains on the table.

“We urge the Aslef leadership to put it to its members, give Christmas back to our passengers, and end this damaging industrial dispute.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is disappointing that Aslef are targeting the public and hospitality businesses at the beginning of the festive period.

“Taxpayers contributed £1,000 per household to protect train drivers’ jobs during the pandemic. Instead of going on strike, Aslef should be following in the footsteps of the other rail unions and giving their members a vote on this fair pay deal.”

The main rail union, the RMT, is balloting on a pay offer that would see members get a no-strings 5 per cent pay offer followed by local negotiations.

Neither ScotRail nor Transport for Wales is involved in either dispute.

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