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Rail disputes rumble on

1 May 2023

Train drivers on strike earlier in the dispute, St Pancras, London November 2022. Photo Workers.

Two key pay disputes in the rail industry are no nearer settlement. In the face of employer and government intransigence, unions are calling members out on further strikes and taking other action.

Few, if any services, will run on routes across England on strike days. And services will be severely affected on eight days when drivers will refuse to work overtime.


Drivers taking action have not had an increase in salary since 2019. Their union, Aslef, first balloted members for industrial action in June 2022. After eight one-day strikes, the passenger train operating companies (TOCs) and the government that stands behind them were eventually persuaded to sit down and talk properly.

But Aslef has rejected the latest pay offer as risible. It stated: “The proposal – of just 4 per cent – was clearly not designed to be accepted as inflation is still running north of 10 per cent and our members at these companies have not had an increase for four years.”

“The proposal was not designed to be accepted.”

Aslef, representing the vast majority of drivers, has announced strikes at 15 operating companies on three more days – 12 May, 31 May and 3 June. And drivers will not work any non-contractual overtime on 13 May, 15 to 20 May or 1 June.

On 13 May other rail workers will also be out on strike in 14 of the operating companies. RMT, their union, has rejected the latest offer from the Rail Delivery Group, representing the employers.


RMT accused the employers and government of “torpedoing” the negotiating process. The RDG said that the first-year payment of 5 per cent included in the offer under consideration by RMT would only be implemented if the union terminated its industrial action mandate.

In other words, RMT would enter the second stage of the planned discussions, dealing with other aspects of the offer, without the negotiating leverage of possible further strike action. The union was not going to fall for that tactic, given the way dispute has developed so far.

The union is currently re-balloting its members in TOCs as required by law as six months has nearly elapsed since the last ballot. The result is expected on 4 May.