Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in a dispute over pay with eight rail operators.
Train drivers at Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railway, Great Western, LNER, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Transpennine Express and West Midlands Trains backed industrial action consisting of a strike, with votes in favour ranging from 86.1% to 98.9% at each train operating company. Turnout ranged from 83.5% to 92.5%.
“Strikes are always the last resort,” said Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef. “We don’t want to inconvenience passengers – our friends and families use public transport, too – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies driven by the government.”
He said that many of the union’s members had not received a pay rise since 2019.
“With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years. We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.”
Aslef said that before the pandemic, operators were paying out dividends of £262 million. Even in the year of Covid they paid out £38 million. Now passenger numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, bumper payouts are back on the companies’ agendas, too.
Between March 2020 and March 2021 train operators were paid management fees of more than £132 million.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row. Especially as the train companies are doing very nicely, thank you, out of Britain’s railways – with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers – and train drivers don’t want to work longer for less,” added Whelan.
Aslef stated that being a train driver is a professional, technical, and safety-critical job. It takes a year to train a driver who can be responsible for the lives of up to 1,300 people on any journey.
Dates for the proposed strike action have not yet been announced but unions must give 14 days’ notice.
Meanwhile, Aslef members working for ScotRail have voted to accept an improved offer, including a 5% increase in basic pa, an excess revenue share premium and improvements to other terms and conditions.