Striking ASLEF train drivers defiant!

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The ASLEF picket line at Victoria station during strike action last year

ASLEF train drivers start another programme of rolling one-day strikes today, which will run alongside their nine-day overtime ban which began yesterday, having now not had a pay rise for nearly five years, since April 2019.

Aslef members are on strike at Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, GTR Thameslink, South Western Railway main line and depot drivers, and SWR Island Line today, with a mass picket outside Waterloo Station from 8am to midday.

They are striking at Northern Trains and TransPennine Trains tomorrow, at C2C, Greater Anglia, and LNER on Friday, at Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, and West Midlands Trains on Saturday and at Chiltern, CrossCountry, and GWR next Monday.

Members are also refusing to work their rest days up to Tuesday 6th February.

The union’s general secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘We have given the government every opportunity to come to the table but it is now a year since we had any contact from the Department for Transport. It’s clear they do not want to resolve this dispute.’

Yesterday’s Daily Mail newspaper demanded that the rail privateers earn their massive bonuses by immediately attacking the workers and their union by charging them under the new Strikes – Minimum Service Levels Act.

Under the new law, workers can be sacked for going on strike and trade unions can be fined £1 million for failing to ensure a ‘minimum service level’ during strike action.

In a front page article the Mail condemned the rail privateers for ‘pocketing huge bonuses and pay rises’ without using the anti-union laws against Aslef.

It quoted former Tory Party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who accused the rail bosses of ‘rank cowardice’, and demanded: ‘If the law is there, then you use it. All the public want is a sense of what the minimum service will be – not leaving it in the hands of the unions to decide.’

The article included details of some of the huge payments made by the taxpayer to the rail privateers and quoted Tory MP Greg Smith, a member of the House of Commons transport committee, who demanded: ‘The government has to exert whatever pressure it can to ensure bosses are unable to be paid enormous salaries and bonuses until they earn them by delivering the service customers expect and the law says they must provide.’

Mick Whelan said: ‘Having seen, since this dispute started in June 2022, the resolve of our members, and the support train drivers enjoy among our passengers and the public, the Tories have now tried their old trick of changing the rules.

‘When they couldn’t bully us into backing down they brought in Minimum Service Levels – designed, effectively, to ban strikes by making them ineffective – but this new law won’t ease industrial strife. It will just make it worse.

‘There is, frankly, no excuse for all this nonsense. The government and the TOCs (train operating companies) should do the right thing and come to the table with a realistic offer so we can end this dispute and work together to ensure a future for our railways.’

The Trades Union Congress held a special conference last month to discuss its response to the new anti-union law without calling any action to defeat it.

The TUC must call an immediate general strike to smash all the anti-union laws and bring down the Tory government now.