Train Strikes: ASLEF union members join picket lines across ELL boroughs

Train Drivers on the picket line at Grove Park Depot. Pic: Imogen Adam

Members of ASLEF, Britain’s union for train drivers walked out across the country on 4 October, due to ongoing disputes over pay and working conditions.

This is the fifteenth strike by ASLEF members since June last year.

Steve Smith, Drivers Company Council Rep & train driver for 23 years, told EastLondonLines: “The government don’t seem to be interested in a resolution. No one is going to agree to the extreme stuff they want. Everyone here is losing money by striking but we can’t say yes to unreasonable demands.”

These demands include more weekend and bank holiday work without extra rates.

He added: “This has been going on for over a year and during the Tory Party conference our situation has barely been mentioned, it seems politics will dictate when strikes end and realistically that will be the next general election.”

“No one is asking for 10 per cent.”

Union posters concerning the Transport Secretary. Pic: Imogen Adam

Train drivers and union members were joining the picket line as early as 4am at Grove Park Depot, Lewisham, with some staying until 5 pm.

The train drivers strike comes after tube strikes were called off by the RMT union with 12 hours’ notice on 3 October.

The strike coincided with the annual Tory Party Conference, which was taking place in Manchester yesterday.

Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, has previously warned unions about the impacts if they were to continue strike action around the Conservative party conference.

He told the Daily Express in September: "Fundamentally, the way you protect the jobs, and the pay of the people that work in the rail industry is by getting more people to use rail."

"They're not going to do that if they're going on strike."

RMT union members at a solidarity march in Whitechapel on October 4. Pic: Ray Bonsall.

Several of the drivers on the picket line at Grove Park Depot voiced concerns over working conditions.

Paul Halstead, a train driver for 19 years, told ELL: "2019 was the last time we had a pay rise, we all worked as key workers through the pandemic and we've had the cost of living crisis hit us all afterwards."

"The government want to make it seem like we're greedy, but it's not just the money that's an issue. Due to job cuts, there are fewer people working on the trains, so often drivers have even more responsibility and there isn't anyone to look out for passengers."

A BBQ was provided for striking workers in Grove Park. Pic: Imogen Adam.

One train driver, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "Having trains with just a driver as the only staff means people are vulnerable, it makes you question, what if someone needs extra assistance?"

He added: "Number one thing should be safety, not profit. But without investing, safety becomes an issue."

While ASLEF union continues to push for a deal, RMT has made progress, calling off strike action intended for October 4 and October 6.

Noreen Hayes, President of the London Transport Regional Council, told ELL: "We started our ballot nearly 2 years ago. It’s been a long hard slog to get any improvement at all. £ 1.2 billion worth of savings need to be made across departments by 2026.”

"We’ve managed to settle on a pay-grade protection package of four years with ACAS. Because we are run by TFL, we’re able to put very direct pressure on the person who holds the purse strings but no matter what part of the transport industry you’re in, you’re under the same attack, which is the demands of a budget-enforcing Tory government.”

Hayes said: "Any initial negative response is being placated by having these recent agreements made."

An over-time ban for train drivers throughout this week is likely to affect rail services up until 7 October.

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