Members of the drivers’ union Aslef at 15 train companies will walk out on Thursday, January 5 after overwhelming votes for more industrial action in the long-running dispute over pay.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 14 train operators are planning to strike on January 3, 4, 6 and 7, so services are set to be crippled for a week.
The companies affected by the Aslef strike are Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, London North Eastern Railway, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway (depot drivers only), SWR Island Line, TransPennine Express, and West Midlands Trains.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “We don’t want to go on strike, but the companies have pushed us into this place.
“They have not offered our members at these companies a penny, and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019.
“That means they expect train drivers at these companies to take a real-terms pay cut, to work just as hard for considerably less, when inflation is running at north of 14 per cent.
“The train companies say their hands have been tied by the Government, while the Government, which does not employ us, says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.
“We are always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk – but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.”
Aslef had to ballot members again because a mandate, under the law, is only valid for six months. The union said its members voted overwhelmingly, again, to take strike action.
Mr Whelan said: “The resolve of our members is rock steady. A 93 per cent ‘yes’ vote – up on the very high figure last time – on an average turnout of 85 per cent shows that our members are in this for the long haul. It shows just how angry and determined we are.
“We now have a new mandate for industrial action for the next six months. The way to stop this is for the companies to make a serious and sensible offer and for the Government not to put a spoke in the wheels.
“We don’t want to inconvenience passengers. Our friends and families use the railway, too, and we believe in investing in rail for the future of our country – and drivers don’t want to lose a day’s pay.
“That’s why strikes are always a last resort, but the intransigent attitude of the train companies, with the Government acting, with malice, in the shadows, has forced our hand.”
A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Further strikes – on top of those already announced by the RMT – will disrupt the New Year travel plans of millions, taking even more money out of the pockets of railway staff.
“Industrial action has already cost the industry millions in lost revenue, and more strikes threaten the industry’s long-term sustainability.
“No-one wants to see this strike go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this damaging disruption.
“We want to work with Aslef to end this dispute that is harming passengers, the industry, and their members.”