Overtime ban triggers six days of rail disruptions – BBC News

  • By Katy Austin & Jemma Dempsey
  • Transport Correspondent & Business Reporter

Train passengers were warned of disruption for the next six days, due to a ban on overtime by train machinists in Aslef’s union.

Fifteen UK-based rail companies will be impacted from Monday to Saturday, the latest step in a long-running payment dispute.

Many will reduce their level of service, and passengers are advised to check before travel.

Aslef said the last salary offer was like going back to “Victorian times”.

Another strike by railroad workers in the RMT union will take place later this month, on 20, 22 and 29 July.

The tennis trip was a hit

Most train companies rely on drivers working overtime to carry out their full schedule.

Among the disruptions expected this week:

  • Southwest Railway said it would run a reduced schedule with the first and last few trains cancelled. Services are likely to be busier than usual, and passengers headed to the Wimbledon tennis championships are advised to allow extra time for their journey.
  • North advising passengers to expect some services to start later and finish earlier than usual, as well as cancellations on short notice
  • Great Western Railroad expect some changes or cancellations at short notice, and say that the Night Riviera Sleeper service won’t be running either way until Sunday
  • Chiltern Railroad warned customers to only travel if absolutely essential on Saturdays. His train will not stop at the station near Wembley Stadium, which is hosting the Blur concert.

The long-running wage dispute by machinists centered around union members accepting a 4% deal two years in a row, bringing the average machinist salary to £65,000. This offer had been rejected by Aslef.

That will hinge on changing work practices, which both employers and the government – which dictate what is being discussed in talks – say are necessary to cut costs and modernize how trains work.

“They want to go back to Victorian times, in terms of how we register, how we recruit, how we do things,” secretary general Aslef Mr Whelan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “The word ‘reform’ is ‘to want productivity for nothing’ .”

The union argues members, who have not gotten a pay raise in four years, should not have to sacrifice working conditions in return for under-inflation wage increases.

Last month, Aslef’s members across 10 operators backed further strikes, meaning the strike could last for another six months if nothing is resolved.

Mr Whelan said the situation was “an ideological problem of Westminster” and claimed unions had no problems in Scotland, Wales, with delivery, the London Underground, Crossrail or Eurostar.

“We did 14 payout deals in the last 12 months. The only place we couldn’t get a payout deal was with the Westminster government,” he added.

The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) said Aslef had rejected a “fair and affordable offer” without making it to its members. “We asked Aslef to recognize the very real financial challenges facing the industry and work with us to bring a better, more reliable railway with a strong long-term future,” he added.

Aslef is not planning further attacks at this time but said more “highly probable” dates could be added soon.

Meanwhile, workers such as railroad guards at the RMT union are expected to leave later this month due to their disagreements over pay, employment and working conditions.

The strike action has now lasted more than a year. With no resolution in sight, the rail company is preparing to move forward with plans to close hundreds of ticket offices.

RDG says only 12% of tickets are now sold at station kiosks.

His spokesman said under the proposed changes, staff would be moved to meetings to help and advise more customers. They added that employees and the public would be consulted about any changes.

But RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said last week his union would not “obediently sit by and allow thousands of jobs to be sacrificed or watch disabled and vulnerable passengers be left unable to use rail as a result”.

The union suggested it could take further industry action on the matter.

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