Aslef picket at Nottingham station. 1.2.23. Photo from Gary Freeman
Aslef picket at Nottingham station. 1.2.23. Photo from Gary Freeman

Catherine Clarke, Southampton Socialist Party

Aslef members are now in their 21st month of action, with action 7-9 May.

Strikers in Southampton told us that the main reason the strike has been prolonged is due to the train operating companies’ (TOCs) determination to dismantle the drivers’ terms and conditions. Behind the employers stand the Tories and the Department for Transport (DfT). The government has refused to sit down and speak to the union representatives, and no formal discussions have been held for a year.

The employers state that taxpayers continue to provide an extra £54 million a week to keep the trains moving since Covid. But none of this money goes to the train drivers! The drivers have not had a pay rise since 2019.

So where does the money go? Well, we know the profits of the rolling stock companies trebled in 2022-23, to £409.7 million. The companies are based in China, Canada and Luxembourg. All the private TOCs make large profits each year.

Train drivers told us they were willing to accept a 6% pay rise, but they will not be forced to relinquish hard-earned terms and conditions, fought for and won over decades. Attacks include:

If you are a stand-in driver (available in case a driver is absent) the new terms say you must be available four hours before and after the normal shift, rather than the present two hours

If you are given 36-hours’ notice that you need to start work at another depot – which from Southampton could be Bristol or London – you will no longer be funded to get there or for an overnight stay

Working-class people are allowed to have a life outside work! By smashing terms and conditions, we are destroying our civil society and family life. The only real answer to these continuous attacks is for our rail network to be nationalised, and democratically run and managed by the working class (see page 3).

Workers should not have to strike each year to keep their heads above water.

Thank you for the amazing sausage bap, Southampton Northam branch! Solidarity always!