Rail union boss warns not to ‘demonise’ train drivers as another day of strike action begins

Train drivers walk out again today as the Aslef union stage their second 24-hour strike this week. Drivers will strike as part of the long-running pay dispute over pay and conditions at 14 train operating companies, leaving passengers facing disruption around Britain.

Most of the biggest operators have said they will be unable to run any trains throughout the day, with trains that do run due to start later and finish much earlier than usual — typically between 7.30 am and 6.30 pm. Saturday morning services are also expected to be affected.

A spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group said: “To minimise the impact of the Aslef action, we advise passengers to check before they travel, allow extra time and find out when their first and last train will depart.”

It follows the recent rejection of a pay offer which would have seen drivers given an 8% pay rise over two years, taking average salaries up from nearly £60,000 a year, to almost £65,000.

Simon Weller, assistant general secretary of Aslef, said the dispute was going “backwards” because of the lack of progress in months of talks.

“I don’t know whether to point the finger of blame at the ineptitude of the department for transport or the Rail Delivery Group”.

When it was suggested to Mick Whelan, the Aslef general secretary, that the striking train drivers could lose the support and sympathy of people who earn significantly less as strikes continue to cause chaos, he argued that train drivers are the victims of “demonisation”.

He told ITV‘s “Good Morning Britain programme”: “I worry first and foremost about the people I represent and the idea of the politics of envy and the demonisation of train drivers and other skilled workers has been going on now for over a year.

“It isn’t about what we earn, it is about what other people don’t earn. I want every nurse in the country, everybody in the fire brigade, everybody in the public sector, every teacher to have what we have”.

With talks with train operators on pay and condition set to resume on Tuesday, Mr Whelan said he is “hopeful” of progress being made.

He said: “We are back in talks on Tuesday and we always go in hopeful. Unfortunately, some of the actions by the employers and the Government in recent weeks have set the talks back.

“But we go back there with open eyes, hoping to find a resolution. We don’t want to be here, my people do not want to be on picket lines, they do not want people losing money, they want to be doing their day job.

“But at some point… someone has got to compromise with us.”

Currently, no further strikes are scheduled by any rail union past this Friday, although Aslef warned that more dates could be announced, saying this week that negotiations in the pay dispute had “gone backwards”.

Today’s walkout is the second strike by train drivers this week, after they took part in the huge day of industrial action on Wednesday.

Other professions who walked out included teachers, university staff, civil servants, bus drivers and security guards.

It saw around 85% per cent of the 23,000 state schools in England and Wales fully or partly closed.