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South West Trains: Drivers strike over tax bills
TWO HUNDRED train drivers, members of ASLEF based at Waterloo station in London, were on strike on 30 May. This was the first of a series of one-day strikes over the removal of tax benefits in kind by their employer South West Trains, concerning the use of taxis.
As ASLEF regional organiser Graham Morris explained, this goes back to the time of privatisation. Under the previously nationalised British Railways, staff trains were run so that workers could get in for the start of the first shift of the day. In some cases this is around 4am.
Following privatisation these trains were withdrawn and an agreement was negotiated between ASLEF and the train operator to provide taxis. This service is particularly important at Waterloo where there are no parking facilities for the staff, leaving night bus services the only other option but these take a lot longer
South West Trains are owned by Stagecoach and make £ millions of profits a year. They have now told the drivers that they will no longer pay the tax on this, which means in effect a significant pay cut for these drivers.
Up to now the payment for the taxis, including the tax, was paid directly by South West Trains. Many drivers were not aware that they were paying tax on this and are shocked by the tax bills they have now been landed with.
There is a determined mood amongst the drivers, particularly when they found out that managers were driving trains on the strike day. Some of these managers have not driven a train for years and have had minimal retraining.
In The Socialist 1 June 2006:
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