‘We’re fighting a land grab of our conditions’ says Mick Whelan

ASLEF strikers on the picket line at Waterloo Station yesterday

‘THE people behind me haven’t had a pay rise for half a decade,’ ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said yesterday, speaking on the picket line outside Waterloo Station in central London.

ASLEF pickets halted thousands of trains again yesterday, following last Friday and Saturday’s strike action, targeting the 14 rail privateers in England that are controlled by the UK government and represented by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

The Tories have instructed RDG bosses not to offer any pay increase that does not include a massive erosion of agreed terms and conditions.

On 27 April 2023, the RDG offered a pay increase of four plus four per cent over two years covering the 2022 and 2023 pay awards – subject to a host of changes in terms and conditions, covering a wide range of issues including driver training, Sunday working, sick pay and new technology.

ASLEF rejected the proposals, describing them as completely unacceptable, and this position was confirmed by union members in 90 per cent-plus ballots.

ASLEF’s Mick Whelan said yesterday: ‘Quite simply, with the cost of living crisis, we believe that like every other worker we are entitled to have a pay rise.

‘We’ve never put a price on it. The real problem we have is that elsewhere we’ve done 17 pay deals in the last 12 months – Scotland, Wales, Freight, Eurostar, Elizabeth Line, Tube and elsewhere.

‘Yet we have a Westminster government that wants to play politics with the 16 TOCs (Train Operating Companies) they control and make unreasonable demands in return for a less than RPI (Retail Prices Index) pay rise.

‘This dispute will last till it gets resolved. I would love a resolution tomorrow. None of the people behind me want to be on the picket line.

‘None of them want to be losing money. But they do feel they are entitled to a pay rise.

‘And while they keep voting 95-99 per cent in favour of strike action and action short of a strike, we’ll be in this for the long haul.

‘Our members voted overwhelmingly – yet again – for strike action. Those votes show – yet again – a clear rejection by train drivers of the ridiculous offer put to us in April last year by the Rail Delivery Group which knew that offer would be rejected because a land grab for all the terms and conditions we have negotiated over the years would never be accepted by our members.

‘Since then train drivers have voted, time and again, to take action in pursuit of a pay rise. That’s why Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, is being disingenuous when he says that offer should have been put to members.

‘Drivers wouldn’t vote for industrial action, again and again and again, if they thought that was a good offer.’