When are the next train strikes? Dates of March walkouts and what union bosses have said on further action
Aslef and rail bosses warn talks are going backwards even as RMT and TSSA members consider new deals
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Rail passengers face five more days of travel disruption in coming weeks as members of two unions stage widespread strikes.
Transport workers represented by the RMT and Aslef unions will take action throughout March and early April after they rejected recent pay offers from employers. The move is likely to see huge numbers of services cancelled or rescheduled across England.
Strike action has caused chaos on the railways since last summer as the unions and train operators try to reach an agreement on pay and conditions for rail workers. RMT action has seen up to 40,000 staff stop working bringing 80% of the network to a halt.
The most recent action by train drivers saw services across 15 train companies disrupted in early February. In the wake of that, Aslef and employers’ representatives warned that talks were “going backwards”, raising the prospect of more strikes in coming weeks and months. Aslef’s general secretary even hinted they could continue for years if a resolution isn’t reached.
Since then the RMT - the country’s biggest rail union - has said it will stage more strikes after a wide-ranging consultation determined that the latest offer did not meet members’ expectations on pay, job security or working conditions.
When will there be train strikes in March?
The RMT has confirmed that its members will stage four days of strike action across train companies in England after it rejected the latest offer from the RDG. It has, however, suspended all action at Network Rail after receiving a new offer, meaning a strike planned for 16 March will not go ahead.
It rejected the train companies’ offer in February, saying it was seeking an “unconditional“ pay offer, a job security agreement and no detrimental changes being imposed on members’ terms, conditions and working practices. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Our members cannot accept the ripping up of their terms and conditions or to have safety standards on the railway put into jeopardy under the guise of so-called modernisation. If our union did accept these offers, we would see a severe reduction in scheduled maintenance tasks, making the railways less safe, the closure of all ticket offices and thousands of jobs stripped out of the industry when the railways need more investment, not less.
“We have carried out an extensive listening exercise and our members have spoken. It is now time for the employers and the Government to listen to railway workers in their tens of thousands. Our industrial campaign will continue for as long as it takes to get a negotiated settlement that meets our members’ reasonable expectations on jobs, pay and working conditions.”
As a result of the vote, RMT members will strike on 6, 18 and 30 March and 1 April at 14 train operators. The affected companies are:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Gatwick Express
- Greater Anglia
- Great Northern
- Great Western Railway
- London Northwestern Railway
- South Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Railway
Aslef and RMT members on the London Underground will also stage a 24-hour walkout on 15 March, bringing the Tube to a halt.
TSSA ends strike action
The smaller TSSA union has called an end to its industrial action after accepting a revised offer from employers. The new deal includes a 5% pay rise this year and a 4% rise next year; no compulsory redundancies until 31 December 2024; and a voluntary redundancy scheme for staff wishing to leave the industry.
A total of 80 per cent of management grade and 60 per cent of general grade members voted to accept the offers. A TSSA spokesperson said: “This is a clear decision from our members which will end our long-running dispute – something which could have happened months ago had it not been for government intransigence.
“Thanks to the great commitment of our members across the train companies they have collectively won a better future and can be rightly proud of their actions in this historic dispute. We will continue to hold the train companies and the government to account as we go forward because Britain needs a fully functioning rail network at the heart of our green industrial future, and as a means of rebuilding our economy in the wake of the Covid pandemic.”
‘Strikes could go on for three more years’
During February’s strikes Aslef’s Mick Whelan warned that action could go on for three more years unless there was movement from employers. Mr Whelan told the PA news agency that train drivers have not had a pay rise in four years.
He said: “What option do we have? If you haven’t had a pay rise for four years, do you wait five? Do you wait six or seven?” Whelan said Aslef members “don’t want to go back until we get a resolution”.
The Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the train operators, admitted that talks with Aslef were “going backwards”. RDG chairman Steve Montgomery told Sky News: “We all understand that we want to give our staff a pay increase, [it’s] naturally important, particularly in these economic climates.
“But drivers’ average wages are £60,000 at this moment. We are offering up to £65,000 over two years. That’s quite a significant increase for people.”
New Transport Secretary
The head of Network Rail said the tone of negotiations had become more positive since the appointment of Mark Harper as transport secretary. Andrew Haines said that Grant Shapps had “galvanised” rail workers into continuing strike action when he was transport secretary through “noisy political rhetoric” but Harper and his rail minister, Huw Merriman, had removed the distraction of Shapps’s overtly confrotational attitiude.
He said: “The conversations are equally direct and blunt but they’re done in a measured tone that isn’t confrontational. The underlying realities haven’t changed but what that’s allowed us to do is avoid the distraction.”
The RDGs Steve Montgomery added that Harper had “de-personalised” negotiations and made them “more sensible” with “less conflict in the room”.