Train drivers are striking again – and this time it coincides with the Tory party conference

RMT and ASLEF picket placards during train strikes
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ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has just announced two more days of train driver strikes. They will coincide with the start and end of this year’s Conservative Party conference – and the secretary for transport isn’t very happy about it.

Strikes and overtime bans

On 15 September, ASLEF announced that its members will hold two more days of strikes. On 30 September and 4 October, drivers at 16 train companies across England will refuse to work as part of a long-running dispute over pay.

As the Canary previously reported, train companies have refused to raise drivers’ wages for the past four years. Furthermore, ASLEF hasn’t had direct contact with train companies or the government regarding the dispute since 26 April and 6 January, respectively. This has led to 12 days of strikes since the dispute began 16 months ago.

Mick Whelan, ASLEF general secretary, said in the press release announcing the September and October strikes that:

We will talk to anyone. But, at the moment, they will not talk to us. And each likes to blame the other. They are happy, clearly, for industrial action to continue. And for passengers to suffer. We have come to agreements, and have no problems, in Scotland [with ScotRail] and in Wales [with Transport for Wales] where transport has been devolved. This is a dispute in England made at Westminster by the Tory government.

In addition to the two strike days, ASLEF also announced two periods of overtime bans. These will stop drivers working more than their contracted hours. The two overtime bans run on 29 September and 2-6 October.

The union says the strikes and overtime bans will “force the train operating companies to cancel all services” and “seriously disrupt the network”.

Read on...

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ASLEF’s strike dates happen to coincide with the Tory party conference. The event takes place this year between 1 and 4 October in Manchester.

‘Politically motivated’

The new dates certainly seemed to ruffle transport secretary Mark Harper, who described the train driver strikes as “politically motivated” on Twitter:

Then, in a tweet that apparently lacked any sense of irony, he used it as an opportunity to attack Labour:

Meanwhile, the union took the opportunity to once again ask the secretary to “stop hiding” and meet with them:

The money is there – but the motivation isn’t

The government has recently wasted billions of pounds on the HS2 high-speed rail network. Now, it’s saying it can’t even complete the project. All of this was funded with public money – so it’s clear that funding is available if the government wants it to be.

The big difference is that rail construction bulks up corporate profits, whereas resolving pay disputes harms those profits. The government’s motives couldn’t be more obvious.

Featured image via Evening Standard/YouTube

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