Members of the train drivers’ union Aslef will go out to 11 carriers on Saturday, November 26. The strike will result in massive cancellations – this will affect Rugby fans heading to the latest international matches in Cardiff and Twickenham this autumn, and potentially millions of other potential travellers.
This will be the fifth nationwide train drivers’ strike in a year that saw eight days of nationwide strikes led by the RMT union.
Rail passengers in the UK are experiencing the longest and most damaging series of strikes since the 1980s.
Railway workers have been protesting since June.
RMT union members working for Network Rail and 14 train operators went on a three-day strike in early November. Even though the strikes were canceled hours before they started, thousands of trains were canceled within a week.
The RMT has voted on a new mandate for future rail shutdowns. With a turnout of 70 percent, 92 percent of members voted for more strikes.
On a regional scale, a range of industrial action, from overtime bans to local strikes, will cause further disruption.
What are the strikes about?
There are many disputes involving multiple employers:
- Network Rail – provider of infrastructure, track guidance, signaling and some major stations
- More than a dozen train operators contracted by the Department for Transport (DfT) to run a specific service schedule.
Four trade unions are involved:
- RMT, the main railway union
- Aslef, representing train drivers
- Transport Workers Association (TSSA), a union for white-collar workers in the transport industry
- Unite, representing some ranks with some train operators
But the key elements are common to all disputes:
- Wages that unions say should take into account the current high inflation
- jobs, and in particular the prospect of forced redundancies
- Working conditions – with unions determined to take a bonus from any productivity improvement
When is the next national strike?
On Saturday, November 26, train drivers belonging to Aslef will go out in front of 11 railway companies as part of a pay dispute.
Six of them are mainly long-distance operators:
- Avanti west coast
- Cross-country races
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
The remaining five are mainly regional operators:
- Great England
- West Midlands Trains
Will there be any trains running?
Yes – many, because several key operators are not involved. A rail company that runs more trains than any other, GTR, should not experience disruption; includes Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink.
South Western Railway, the operator from the UK’s busiest station, London Waterloo, will operate as normal.
ScotRail and Transport for Wales remain unaffected.
Trains that duplicate connections on striking operators are likely to be busier than usual. These include Transport for Wales trains on the Swansea-Cardiff-Newport corridor and between Crewe and Manchester.
Will striking operators run trains?
Some will. The Great Western Railway will run hourly between London Paddington and Bristol for most of the day, but trains will not stop at Bath, the site of a popular Christmas market.
LNER will operate a service every two hours between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, and one trip each way between London and Leeds.
TransPennine Express will operate four trains each way between York and Manchester Piccadilly; three each way between Manchester Victoria and Liverpool Lime Street; and two each way between Sheffield and Cleethorpes.
Other carriers are likely to cancel all trains. Avanti West Coast and East Midlands Railway says no services will run on Saturday.
Southeastern, serving Kent, East Sussex and South East London from the capital, says: “There will be no South East services on this date. Please do not attempt to travel by train on this day.”
What are both sides saying?
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, emphasizes: “We do not want to take such actions.
“But while the industry is still not making any offer – because of the dodgy deal they signed with the DfT [Department for Transport] – We have no choice but to resume strike action.
“With inflation already in double digits, the train drivers who have kept the UK moving through the pandemic are expected to work as hard this year as they did last year, but for less.
“Most of these drivers have not had a pay rise since 2019.”
A DfT spokesman said: “It is disappointing that Aslef has once again opted for suicidal strike action when our railway is in dire need of reform.
“It’s a frustrating step backwards. Further disruption not only harms society and the livelihoods of Aslef members, it threatens the future of the railway itself.”
A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group, representing rail operators, said: “We regret Aslef’s decision, which will cause real disruption to passengers and hit its members’ pay packages.
“Instead of staging more unproductive strike action that adds to the very real financial challenge facing the industry, we are asking them to work with us to secure both the pay deal and the necessary changes so that it can prosper in the long term and improve reliability across the board. networks.
What other disruptions are planned?
Aslef has withdrawn all non-contractual overtime on the LNER East Coast Main Line from Sunday 27 November. The union’s general secretary accuses the state-owned company of “complete disregard for the agreements that shape our members’ working lives.”
But Warrick Dent, LNER’s Director of Safety and Operations, says: “We are confident that our contingency plans will keep disruption to LNER services to a minimum.”
In addition, morale across the rail industry is low, with several train operators reporting higher than normal levels of employee sickness.
Avanti West Coast and TransPennine Express have significantly reduced schedules until December 10.
What’s going on in Scotland?
The long and bitter dispute between ScotRail employees and management may be over. The overtime ban and planned strikes in December are currently on hold while RMT members vote on a new offer.
It includes a 5 percent increase in base pay and other measures that will push the average wage increase to around 8 percent.
I have a ticket booked for the day of the strike. What are my options?
Passengers with advance, off-peak or all-time tickets affected by strikes can generally use their ticket for travel on either side of strike days.
Alternatively, they can apply for a refund.
But be careful about spending money on events or hotels that will require train travel. While you will be reimbursed for train tickets when trains are cancelled, “consequential losses” will not be covered. So non-refundable expenses will be lost if you are unable to travel.
Are future strikes likely – and when will we hear about them?
The main trade union says: “The average RMT union rail worker earns £31,000. Our railwaymen have not seen a raise in three years.
“The union will continue its industrial campaign until we reach a negotiated agreement on job security, pay and working conditions.”
Unions must give 14 days’ notice of strikes and usually announce strikes close to that date. When a sequence of strikes is announced, like November 5-7-9, they are declared in one fell swoop.
Why isn’t there a continuous strike like we’ve seen in the past?
Rail unions can impact almost an entire week, stopping work for three days – causing maximum disruption with minimum loss of wages.
Are parts of the UK not affected by these rail strikes?
Yes, the railways in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight have so far avoided any industrial action.
Where will it all end?
This could take months. Railway workers tell me that they feel unappreciated and that stopping work is the only way to reach a fair settlement.
But rail fare revenues have fallen since Covid, and employers say they need to balance the books – with wage increases dependent on upgrades and cost-cutting.
Meanwhile, the passengers find themselves caught in the middle of a seemingly unresolvable dispute, facing another day of ruined travel plans while the taxpayer collects the bill for the financial losses the strike will cause.
At a time when rail is desperate to attract new passengers, confidence in rail travel is at an all-time low.