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Fresh Train Strikes Threaten To Disrupt Commonwealth Games

Matt Crisp July 31, 2022

Drivers at eight train companies across the UK have voted to take strike action, threatening to disrupt summer events for the second time this year. Members of the drivers’ union ASLEF have voted 9-1 in favour of fresh strikes, over an ongoing pay dispute with company bosses, Sky News reports.

Affected services include Chiltern, LNER, Northern, TransPennine Express, Arriva Rail London, Great Western, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains. It is feared that the strikes may cause disruption for the Commonwealth Games, which open in Birmingham on 28 July, and run until the 8 August. 

Union leaders argue that pay has not kept pace with soaring inflation, which currently stands at over 9%. However, government ministers argue that bringing wages in line with inflation will only make the situation worse, and trap the economy in a spiral of decline. 

The Bank of England governor, Andrew Bailey, commented that he expects inflation to decline steeply again next year. However, rail workers argue that the have taken a real-term pay cut since 2019, despite many staff going above and beyond to keep essential services running during the pandemic.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, 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.”

No dates have been announced for the strikes as yet, but by law, unions need to give 14 days’ notice. Anyone who already has a ticket for the affected days is entitled to claim a refund, and season ticket holders can claim compensation for the days they were unable to travel. 

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.”

They added: “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.”

If the strikes go ahead, it will be the biggest strike action for 30 years. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps criticised the move in a Tweet, claiming it was unfair on those lower waged commuters who couldn’t travel to work.

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