ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has rejected a ‘risible’ pay offer from the 16 train companies with whom we are in dispute – our drivers not having had an increase in salary at these companies since 2019.

‘Our executive committee met this morning [Thursday] and rejected a risible proposal we received from the RDG, a pressure group which represents some of the train companies, and lobbies on their behalf, late on Wednesday afternoon,’ said Mick Whelan, ASLEF’s general secretary, today.

‘The proposal – of just 4% – was clearly not designed to be accepted as inflation is still running north of 10% and our members at these companies have not had an increase for four years.

‘The RDG, in turn, rejected our proposals to modernise Britain’s railways and help them run more efficiently, for passengers and for businesses, in the 21st century.

‘Consequently, we have today announced three more days of strike action – on Friday 12 May, Wednesday 31 May, and Saturday 3 June – at the companies with which we are in dispute, and which are letting down passengers, and taxpayers, so badly.

‘We are also withdrawing non-contractual overtime from Monday 15 to Saturday 20 May inclusive, as well as on Saturday 13 May and Thursday 1 June.’

The 16 train operating companies include: 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; SWR Island Line; TransPennine Express; and West Midlands Trains.

Our negotiating team – general secretary Mick Whelan, assistant general secretary Simon Weller, and executive committee president Dave Calfe – has met representatives of the employers, under the framework of the Rail Industry Recovery Group, on eight occasions to try to find a resolution to this long-running dispute: Tuesday 7 February; Thursday 16 February; Tuesday 21 February; Thursday 2 March; Tuesday 21 March; Tuesday 4 April; Thursday 13 April; and Wednesday 26 April.

The talks, at national level, were to try to resolve a dispute which began a year ago – we first balloted members for industrial action in June last year – to get a pay rise for drivers who have not had an increase since 2019. Although pay deals fall due at different times, and the pandemic, and lockdown, forced a delay in negotiations, six of those deals fell due in April 2019. 

‘We have been discussing specific issues for a national resolution and arrangements – and principles – for additional, and separate, bespoke TOC by TOC talks,’ explains Mick.

It took eight one-day strikes to bring the TOCs – and the Tory government that stands behind them – to their senses and persuade them to sit down and talk properly. ASLEF members withdrew their labour on Saturday 30 July; Saturday 13 August; Saturday 1 October; Wednesday 5 October; Saturday 26 November; Thursday 5 January; Wednesday 1 February; and Friday 3 February.

‘We do not want to go on strike – we do not want to inconvenience passengers, we have families and friends who use the railway, too, and we believe in investing in rail for the future of this country – but the blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence.

‘It is now up to them to come up with a more sensible, and realistic, offer and we ask the government not to hinder this process.’

Pete Whitelegg adds:

The offer is not just risible.  It is conditional on employees accepting new conditions of service, for example a seven day working week, which entails Sunday working not being counted as overtime, lower sick pay and pensions for new entrants etc.

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