Train drivers’ strike to coincide with Tory annual conference

Aslef members will walk out on September 30 and October 4,

Alan Jones
Friday 15 September 2023 14:31 BST
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan outlined details of the walkouts (Victoria Jones/PA)
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan outlined details of the walkouts (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Train drivers are to stage fresh strikes, coinciding with the Conservative party’s annual conference, in their long-running dispute over pay.

Aslef announced its members at 16 train operators will walk out on September 30 – the day before the conference – and October 4, the final day of the event.

The union said the strikes will force train operators to cancel all services, causing travel chaos for passengers, including those travelling to and from the Conservative conference in Manchester, which is being held from October 1 to 4.

Aslef members will also ban overtime from September 29 to October 6, which the union said will “seriously disrupt” the rail network.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said: “While we regret having to take this action – we don’t want to lose a day’s pay or disrupt passengers as they travel by train – the Government and employers have forced us into this position.

“Our members have not had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – and that’s not right when prices have soared in that time.

“Train drivers quite reasonably want to be able to buy now what they could buy four years ago.”

Mr Whelan likened Transport Secretary Mark Harper to “Where’s Wally?”, saying he had made no contact with the union since last December.

“Where’s Mark Harper? He holds the purse strings. The train companies have told us. They say they cannot act without his say-so.”

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “Further strike action by the Aslef leadership will cause more disruption to passengers.

“We want to give our staff a pay increase, but it has always been linked to implementing necessary, sensible reforms that would enhance services for our passengers.

“The union have rejected a fair and affordable offer without putting it to their members, which would take average driver base salaries for a four-day week without overtime from £60,000 to nearly £65,000.

“We ask the Aslef leadership and executive to recognise the very real financial challenge the industry is facing and work with us to deliver a more reliable and robust railway for the future.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has facilitated fair and reasonable offers to both RMT and Aslef.

“RMT members working for Network Rail accepted their offer months ago and Aslef’s would bring the average train driver’s salary up to £65,000.

“Further strike action will not only put a strain on taxpayers, but risk driving passengers away from the network for good. These strikes will not prevent the need for essential workplace reforms.”

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