British train drivers’ strike brought rail services to a standstill

Thousands of train drivers from seven of England’s 15 railway companies held a day-long strike on Saturday that paralyzed much of Britain’s rail network.

Train drivers picketing at Leeds railway station [Photo: WSWS]

Drivers are demanding a pay rise after a three-year pay freeze. Workers voted by a large majority to go on strike after the government and companies agreed that drivers should not receive more than a 2 percent wage increase, massively below the RPI inflation measure, which is nearly 12 percent. Other offers from Network Rail were based on railway workers accepting a well-below-inflationary higher wage deal that came with attacks on working conditions – which the government imposed as part of its Great British Railway plans.

Services were impacted on Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains. Very few or no services could run. Heathrow Express trains have been brought to a complete standstill, as has Southeastern. On GWR, no service west of Bristol could go to Wales. The disruption to West Midlands Trains severely impacted services in Birmingham, the host city of the Commonwealth Games, and disrupted the tournament.

The government’s response was to redouble its efforts to inflict a devastating defeat on drivers and all railroad workers. in one Times Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denounced drivers as “public sector aristocrats” who are “doing their best to bring the country to a standstill” and “failing trips to the Women’s Euros”. [football tournament] and Commonwealth Games.”

He warned that Network Rail would push through the changes without workers’ consent, stating: “RMT [Rail, Maritime and Transport union] stalls reforms and Aslef hesitates to negotiate while both call more strikes. Enough.

“This week Network Rail, the largest rail employer operating the infrastructure, sent a letter to unions beginning formal consultation on modernization… despite the deadlock, changes are being introduced anyway.” His comment concluded: “That’s not a Brinkmanship. We have to get this situation under control and push through the necessary changes.”

Shapps’ claim that the unions are adamant against the government is propaganda aimed at the Tory right-wing base to justify a series of draconian anti-strike laws being prepared.

The reality is that unions are doing everything they can to end the strikes, with the RMT expected to go on strike for just two days nationwide in August (18th and 20th August) and ASLEF for just one day (13th August). The unions refuse to call coordinated strikes by all railway workers despite the same attacks from employers.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.