Mid-August railway strike set to hit Hertfordshire train lines
- Credit: Victoria Jones/PA
Staff at a total nine railway firms have voted to stage a major one-day strike which is set to hit train lines in Hertfordshire.
Railway drivers and other train staff who belong to the Aslef trade union are set to stage their walkout on Saturday, August 13.
The major walkout follows several Aslef and RMT strikes throughout the summer which have caused disruption for passengers nationwide.
On Wednesday, July 27, the union announced that staff at two railway firms voted to strike and will join workers who elected to take industrial action from an initial seven companies earlier this year.
Mark Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said: "Strikes are always the last resort.
"We don’t want to inconvenience passengers – our friends and families use public transport too – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the government.
"Many of our members, who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic, have not had a pay rise since 2019.
"With inflation running at north of 10 per cent that means those drivers have had a real-terms pay cut over the last three years.
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"We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.
"It's not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you're not worse off for three years in a row."
He added: "Wage rises aren't fuelling inflation.
"Excess profiteering is, but the government isn't asking companies to cut profits or dividend payments to help manage inflation.
"Wages are chasing prices, not putting them up.
"We don't see why we should forego an increase in salary to keep pace with inflation and help the privatised train companies make even bigger profits to send abroad."
In Hertfordshire, staff at Avanti West Coast, Greater Anglia, Hull Trains, LNER, London Overground and West Midlands Trains, which includes London Northwestern Railway, are set to walk out.
Elsewhere in the country, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway and Southeastern staff are set to take part in the industrial action.
A Department for Transport spokesperson hit back at the strikes, and said the rail industry was supported to the tune of £600 per household since the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
The DfT spokesperson said: "It's incredibly disappointing Aslef bosses have announced more destructive strike action, particularly when it has become clear they have no interest in holding constructive talks with the industry.
"Train drivers, such as those Aslef represent, earn, on average, just under £60,000 – more than twice the UK average and significantly more than the very workers who will be most impacted by these strikes.
"Our railway is in desperate need of modernisation to make it work better for passengers and be financially sustainable for the long term.
"We urge union bosses to reconsider this divisive action and instead work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward."
According to the government's own National Careers Service, a starter salary for a train driver stands at £24,000 per annum.
Elsewhere in the industry, the National Careers Service notes that tram drivers typically earn between £19,000 and £30,000 per annum.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson, representing train firms, said the total number of past and future Aslef or RMT strike days stands at 10 across summer 2022.
They said: "The action announced by the Aself leadership shows a cynical approach to talks, a total disregard for passengers and is putting everyone’s summer plans at risk.
"This action will bring the total number of strike days on the railway to 10, disrupting plans in June, July and August.
"Like any public service we have to change with the times, and it’s only by making necessary reforms that we can give our people a pay rise."