Swansea. Photo: Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party
Swansea. Photo: Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party

Train drivers in the Aslef union have been taking part in a rolling wave of strike action at the end of January and beginning of February across 14 train operating companies (TOCs) in England.

Iain Dalton reports that on the LNER picket line in Leeds on Friday 2 February there were larger numbers present than on other recent strike days. The mood was buoyed by the victory over the attempt to use the minimum service levels legislation against them. The government-owned LNER was defeated by Aslef’s preparedness to escalate action.

Aslef members have now been on strike as part of this pay dispute for 18 months. Pickets in Leeds have a sign marking each strike day so far – currently on 16.

As pickets explained, they are calling for a pay rise after not receiving one since before the Covid-19 pandemic – around five years ago! They say they cannot accept what was last put on the table by the government and TOCs as it contained unacceptable attacks on their terms and conditions. The bosses have refused to negotiate with them since.

Some strikers were looking towards the general election for a possible break in the situation, although Starmer’s lack of support for the strike action did not inspire much confidence! Aslef should call on Starmer to commit to meeting the union’s demands – but be prepared to fight no matter who is in government.

Train driver says: ‘MSLs – We must resist’

Our dispute is one of the longest running in Aslef. No one wants to be on strike. But the Tory government is behind the train operating companies (TOCs). We’ve been through three or four prime ministers and three or four transport ministers. The current one hasn’t met anyone in the union.

Now the latest scenario is minimum service levels (MSLs), attacking workers’ rights and democracy. The first instance of a TOC suggesting they would use MSLs resulted in us escalating our action. LNER retreated. This is a victory. If we give an inch they’ll take a mile. Any time the MSL law raises its head we must resist. Make it unenforceable. Non-compliance, escalation – we can’t just allow it to take place.