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Travel disruption expected as fresh rail strikes confirmed for October

·4-min read

Railway workers are to resume strikes in long-running disputes over pay, jobs and conditions, threatening fresh travel chaos for passengers.

Members of the drivers union Aslef at 12 companies will walk out on October 1 and 5, which will affect travel for delegates and visitors to and from the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said its members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will strike on October 1.

The RMT said the October 1 stoppage will bring the railway to an effective standstill, adding it had received no further offers from the rail industry to help come to a negotiated settlement.

Aslef warned it was in for the “long haul” as the rail disputes remain deadlocked.

General secretary Mick Whelan said: “We would much rather not be in this position. We don’t want to go on strike – withdrawing your labour, although a fundamental human right, is always a last resort for this trade union – but the train companies have been determined to force our hand.

“They are telling train drivers to take a real-terms pay cut. With inflation now running at 12.3% – and set, it is said, to go higher – these companies are saying that drivers should be prepared to work just as hard, for just as long, but for considerably less.

“The companies with whom we are in dispute have not offered us a penny. It is outrageous that they expect us to put up with a real-terms pay cut for a third year in a row.

“That’s why we are going on strike. To persuade the companies to be sensible, to do the right thing, and come and negotiate properly with us. Not to run up and say, ‘Our hands are tied and the Government will not allow us to offer you an increase’.

“Train drivers kept Britain moving – key workers and goods around the country – throughout the pandemic and we deserve to be treated better than this.

“That’s why we are calling on the companies – which are making big profits, and paying their chief executives enormous salaries and bonuses – to make a pay offer to our members to keep up with the rise in the cost of living.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Transport workers are joining a wave of strike action on October 1, sending a clear message to the Government and employers that working people will not accept continued attacks on pay and working conditions at a time when big business profits are at an all-time high.

“The summer of solidarity we have seen will continue into the autumn and winter if employers and the Government continue to refuse workers reasonable demands.

“We want a settlement to these disputes where our members and their families can get a square deal and we will not rest until we get a satisfactory outcome.”

A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson said: “These strikes will once again hugely inconvenience the very passengers the industry needs to support its recovery from the ongoing impact of the pandemic. They range from those left out of pocket because they can’t get to work, to people missing vital appointments and to thousands of London marathon participants, who, after months of training, will have their journeys to London disrupted at the weekend.

“The strikes are not in the long-term interests of rail workers or building a sustainable rail industry. We want to give our people a pay rise, but without the reforms we are proposing, we simply cannot deliver pay increases. Revenue is still around 80% of pre-pandemic levels, no business can survive that scale of upheaval without implementing change.

“The actions of union leaders have very real consequences: every strike day takes more money out of their members’ pockets. We want to see the industry and its people thrive – we are asking the unions’ leadership to do the right thing, call off these damaging strikes and work with us to make that happen.”