Rail strikes: “The train drivers have had enough,” says union boss

A collage of Euston Station and Aslef guide Mark Whelan

Union officials say the strike was the latest escalation in a years-long pay dispute (Images: PA/Getty)

Rail strikes that have crippled the UK are a “last resort” for unions exhausted by years of low wage growth, bosses and members say.

More than 9,000 workers affiliated with the drivers’ union Aslef (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) and the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) took industrial action today.

The TSSA has also planned to go on strike tomorrow and Friday.

The two unions represent conductors and other railway workers in 12 transport companies and throw travel plans for millions into chaos.

Most drivers have not received a pay raise since 2019 and with prices soaring, Aslef leaders and members told Metro.co.uk that strikes are their only option.

Aslef argues that its members are taking a real pay cut while inflation is hovering in double digits at 9.9% and fuel and food costs are skyrocketing.

Union leaders feel their problems have only gotten worse since Liz Truss’ budget sent the pound into a tailspin.

Mike Whelan, Secretary General of Aslef, had some choice words for the PM when he called on her government to intervene.

Speaking outside London’s King Cross, he said: “You’re destroying the economy, your tax cuts are for the rich.

“Never mind taking away the 45% or so, the other unfunded tax cuts will destroy people’s ability to stay in their homes, whether they have a mortgage or are renters.”

Mr Whelan added: “Because of you we already have a society and a country where work doesn’t pay.

Mick Whelan (C), general secretary of the ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) union, joins a picket line outside Euston Station in London October 5, 2022 causing heavy disruption as strikes resume after the Queen Elizabeth II mourning period . Members of four unions launched the action after workers halted walkouts following the Queen's death on September 8. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mick Whelan said the UK has one of the “worst trade union laws in Europe” (Image: AFP)

To view this video, please enable JavaScript and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 videos

epa10224566 Passengers wait at a barrier at Euston railway station, Britain, 05 October 2022. Rail services in Britain are disrupted as 9,000 train drivers from the Aslef union take part in another consecutive large-scale strike over pay and working conditions. No trains on routes operated by companies such as Northern, Avanti West Coast and Southeastern. EPA/NEIL HALL

Almost an entire county was wiped off the railroad map as Southeast Transit workers left (Image: EPA)

“Wages and average conditions have fallen by 27.5% over the last 10 years. We have 2.5 million children in the sixth richest nation in the world who don’t eat every day.

“You can do something about it. We can help you do something about it. If not, get out of the way and let someone else do it.’

Like many Britons, the cost of living crisis has hit railway workers hard, Mr Whelan said.

“They all have families. They all have people who rely on them. A lot of them put their kids through college, a lot of them on big mortgages,” he said.

“Train conductors just have enough, and after three years without pay they feel entitled to something,” he added.

Mr Whelan said today’s strikes were not just a response to the current economic turmoil under Ms Truss’s oversight.

“I laugh when I hear Jacob Rees-Mogg say they’ve only been in power for 28 days – they’ve been here for 12 years. 12 years of thrift. 12 years of increased costs,” he said.

But railway workers are not alone. Garbage collectors and criminal defense lawyers are among those who have led large-scale strikes in recent months.

Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan (right) at a picket line at Euston station in London, as members of Aslef drivers' union and the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) go on strike. Picture date: Wednesday October 5, 2022. PA Photo. See PA Story INDUSTRY Rail. Photo credit should read: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Mick Whelan (right) at a picket line at Euston station in London (Image: PA)

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 05: Euston railway station is closed on the second of three days of October rail strikes by the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) and the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) Rail workers, Railway workers on pay and working conditions affecting the national rail network in London, United Kingdom on October 05, 2022. The widespread promotion was planned for early September but was canceled after the Queen's death. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The strikes will last until October 8 (Image: Getty Images)

This labor unrest is another test for Ms Truss, who has promised to launch a new crackdown on strikes.

Ms Truss, who has tried to emulate Margaret Thatcher, has been looking for ways to make it more difficult and time-consuming to organize a strike and to tax the strike pay that members receive for not going to work .

“We actually have the worst union laws in Europe, if not the world, right now,” Whelan said.

“In addition, we have the protest law [Police and Crime Bill]we have the Lobbying and Transparency Bill.

“But aren’t workers and protesters also voters? And when you raise your voice, aren’t you telling the government, ‘We could be dissatisfied with you’?

“If you lose that, the opportunity to do that, you’re a poorer society,” he added.

Howard Kaye, a member of the Executive Committee for District Five, which covers East Anglia, said: “We’re not bad people, we just represent the working people.

“This is a last, last resort where everything else collapsed.”

Mr Kaye said he understood why train drivers’ salaries are so often the focus of attention – the average driver’s salary in the UK is around £50,000.

“I admit we have a pretty good base salary, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.

But Mr Kaye said the rail sector’s fight for a pay rise is part of a broader fight among British workers for better working conditions.

“We are talking about essential workers, cleaners, nurses and public sector workers whose wages have not increased during the pandemic and who are now being hit hard,” he said.

Chris Monroe, 55, a local representative for the area and a driver, said he had one reason for joining the picket line: his family.

“I’ve been a railroader for 40 years and I hope the end of my career is in sight,” he said.

“But my wife and I are starting to worry if we’re going to have a good enough pension to live on.

“A lot of people are struggling right now and hopefully our argument will benefit other people as this is a bigger cause.”

Rail strike picket piece

Aslef members demonstrated outside major train stations including London’s King’s Cross (Image: Josh Milton)

Rail strike picket piece

Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said labor action would continue pending government intervention (Image: Josh Milton)

Job action was something Mr Monroe grew up with as a kid in the Thatcher years – but today’s strikes have taken him by surprise.

He said: “I can’t remember a time in my life where people who actually have pretty good wages were like, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. It’s bizarre.”

“It affects everyone across the country. It’s unprecedented.’

He added, “We’ve had a lot of middle-class and maybe what you would equate with upper-class people who stopped and said, ‘We see this can’t go on any longer.’

Almost half of Brits support rail workers taking action to improve their wages and working conditions, according to a survey, and Mr Monroe believes this is only going to increase.

“Hopefully the tide turns and things could get better at some point,” he said, “and not a minute too soon.”

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

For more stories like this, Visit our news page.

https://metro.co.uk/2022/10/05/rail-strikes-train-drivers-have-had-enough-says-union-boss-17507782/ Rail strikes: "The train drivers have had enough," says union boss

Justin Scacco

InternetCloning is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@internetcloning.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button