Lancashire rail users face more strike misery and here's why

Lancashire rail users face more misery as train drivers at another three companies voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a dispute over pay.

Members of Aslef at Northern, TransPennine Express and Chiltern backed walkouts in the long-running row affecting the industry.

The votes were all more than 9-1 in favour of strikes, with turnouts of over 80 per cent.

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Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said strikes were always the last resort, adding: “You can see from the votes – and the turnouts – just how angry our members are.

ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan

“These are the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic, yet have not had a pay rise since 2019.

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“With inflation running at north of 10 per cent – and set to go much higher – several train companies are saying that they want their drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. Their attitude is ‘suck it up’ – and that stinks.

“We now have mandates at 12 companies.

“After our one-day strike on August 13, the Rail Delivery Group, the pressure group which represents the interests of the privatised train operating companies, asked for talks. Those talks were strained, but quite constructive.

“There were no concrete proposals but dialogue will, we hope, continue.

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"That’s why we are calling on the companies to come to the table with a proper proposal to help our members.

“That is the way to prevent another strike and all the disruption that causes.

"The ball is now firmly in the train companies’ court.”

A Rail Delivery Group spokesman said: “We want to give our people a pay rise, but to fund it unions must recognise that an industry that has lost 20 per cent of its revenue can either adapt or decline.

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“Instead of causing further disruption to passengers and businesses, we urge the Aslef leadership to continue talks so we can adapt our services new travel patterns, improve punctuality and secure a bright, long-term future for our people.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing that Aslef is calling for even more industrial action to disrupt our railway.

“Taxpayers across the country contributed £16bn – £600 per household – to keep our railway running throughout the pandemic while ensuring not a single job was lost.

“The railway is on life support, and all further strikes will do is drive more people away from it while causing chaos to the day-to-day lives of the very people unions claim to represent.

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“These reforms are essential to the future of rail and, whether union chiefs like it or not, will be undertaken and will create a sustainable railway for the next generation; more strikes will not change this.”

And the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association announced its members at TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains have voted overwhelmingly for strikes over pay, job security and conditions.

The workers voted by over 7-1 in favour of walkouts on turnouts of over 60 per cent.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “These are great results for our union and again demonstrate that our members are utterly determined to fight for their pay, jobs and conditions.

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“They are right to do so amid the escalating Tory cost of living crisis and with a chaotic government hell bent on making swingeing cuts to our rail network while inflation rages.

“We will soon speak to our workplace reps to consider next steps in the forthcoming days.

“If Ministers had any sense they would come to the table and sort this out, so we have a fair settlement for workers who were hailed as heroes in the pandemic.”