Train drivers at eight different companies have voted in favour of striking following a pay dispute, union Aslef has confirmed.
Members of the union at Chiltern, LNER, Northern, TransPennine Express, Arriva Rail London, Great Western, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains voted by around 9-1 in favour of strikes on turnouts of more than 80%.
The latest news comes after widespread strikes by Network Rail workers led to thousands of train services across the UK being cut in late June, with RMT members planning on walking out on again in late July.
Why are train drivers striking?
Drivers at train companies across the country have been battling for wage increases in line with inflation.
Union boss Mick Whelan says that drivers have been faced with a “real terms pay cut”, with wages failing to match rising inflation for the past three years.
He said: “Strikes are always the last resort. 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.
“Many of our members – who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic – have not had 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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association announced that hundreds of its members at Southeastern have voted for strikes over pay, job security and conditions.
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This is a great result for our union and comes hard on the heels of similar votes at a raft of other train operating companies, with results expected from our Network Rail members imminently.
“The results demonstrate that our members are utterly determined to fight for their pay, jobs and conditions. 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.
“It would be unwise for any rail company to ignore the feelings of our membership. 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.”
When will the strikes take place?
Aslef have confirmed that a 24-hour strike will take place on Saturday 30 July.
Train companies included in the strike are Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains.
Drivers at Greater Anglia will also walk out on Saturday 23 July, while drivers at Hull Trains will also strike on Saturday 16 July and Saturday 23 July.
How much are train drivers paid?
According to the National Careers Service, train drivers are salaried starting at £24,000.
This pay grade is normal for unexperienced new starters, whereas experienced train drivers could earn anywhere up to £60,000.
The government has argued that the higher-than-average salary for many drivers means that the proposed strikes are unnecessary.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “It is very disappointing that, rather than commit to serious dialogue with the industry, Aslef are first seeking to cause further misery to passengers by joining others in disrupting the rail network.
“The train drivers they represent earn, on average, just under £60,000 per year – more than twice the UK median salary and significantly more than the very workers who will be most impacted by these strikes.
“Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation to make it work better for passengers and be financially sustainable for the long term. We urge the union bosses to reconsider and work with its employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.”