Rail passengers are being warned to expect continued disruption as train drivers across England go on strike again.
Members of the Aslef trade union will stage a second 24-hour walkout on Friday 3 February, following previous action on Wednesday. Network Rail said Wednesday’s action was having a significant knock-on effect on services on Thursday and it is expected that Friday’s strike will have a impact on early services on Saturday.
Around 12,000 members of Aslef are staging two 24-hour walkouts alongside some members of the RMT in an ongoing battle with employers. Passengers face mass cancellations, with almost all of the 15 affected train companies stopping all services on strike days.
The strikes follow several days action in January and Wednesday’s action coincides with the biggest day of industrial action in a decade, with half a million people joining walkouts across a host of sectors.
Aslef called the action in mid-January after rejecting a “clearly unacceptable” offer from employers. Speaking from the picket line outside London’s Euston station on 1 Februray, Aslef general secretary warned that a resolution to the dispute seems “further away than when we started” and said the latest “non-offer” from employers risked setting negotiations back.
Drivers will now stage two one-day walkouts on Wednesday 1 and Friday 3 February following on from several days action in January.
Aslef is one of three unions in dispute with train operating companies, along with the RMT and TSSA. Although its train driver members are taking part in the action, the RMT has not announced plans for any more widespread strikes and is currently considering a “best and final” settlement offer from the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train operators.
Although February’s action is not expected to be as disruptive as recent strikes, which halted 80% of all services, it will have a serious impact on services with all but two of the affected operators confirming they will run no services at all on strike days.
Aslef is in dispute with 15 TOCs while RMT members at 14 firms will take action. February’s strikes will affect services on:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- Greater Anglia (amended timetable)
- GTR Great Northern Thameslink
- London North Eastern Railway (amended timetable)
- Northern Trains
- Southern/Gatwick Express
- South Western Railway (depot drivers only)
- SWR Island Line
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Trains
Why are train drivers striking?
Aslef, along with the RMT and TSSA, has been in a long-running fight with employers over pay rises for its members and changes to working conditions set out as part of plans to modernise the rail network.
The union says the latest offer - made before the RDG was given a mandate to improve its offer - equates to a real-terms pay cut for its members and includes demands for working practices which are unsafe and unacceptable. The deal included an offer of a 4% per year pay rise for two years.
Reacting to the offer made on 6 January, Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan: ‘It’s now clear to our members, and to the public, that this was never about reform or modernisation but an attempt to get hundreds of millions of pounds of productivity for a 20% pay cut while taking away any hope of the union having any say in the future.
‘Not only is the offer a real-terms pay cut, with inflation running north of 10%, but it came with so many conditions attached that it was clearly unacceptable. They want to rip up our terms and conditions in return for a real-terms pay cut.”
One of the key points of contention between Aslef and the RDG is a plan to make driver only operated (DOO) trains more widespread. The union claims it will make the railways less safe for staff and passengers but employers insist that new technology will make it possible and it is necessary to modernise the way the rail network operates.
Whelan told MPs recently the matter was a “red line” issue for the union and it would not accept any deal where the further use of DOO was a condition.