Greater Anglia train. Photo: Savage Kieran/CC
Greater Anglia train. Photo: Savage Kieran/CC

Train driver and Aslef member

11 July marked a new turning point in the recent rail disputes and the wider industrial action during this Tory-driven ‘summer of discontent’. Train drivers in Aslef across eight different train operating companies (TOCs) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action to secure a pay rise. The ‘yes’ votes combined came in at an average of 90%, reaching heights of 98.9%, smashing the anti-trade union thresholds and obstacles put in place by the Tories.

The government wants a race to the bottom with workers blaming each other and fighting among ourselves about who has got better pay and conditions. But we should be blaming those who really deserve it – the bosses! We shouldn’t try to drag each other down to fight over the crumbs but fight back collectively to raise all workers’ pay in this country.

This includes sending solidarity to all RMT members in their disputes, hoping they come out victorious and, where possible, organising a united fightback with Aslef against common employers and political opponents.

Rail bosses and Tory ministers are desperate to drive a wedge between workers to both weaken our collective power in the workplace, and to try and distract working-class communities from all the crises gripping their party.

The TOCs and the Tory government say there is no money for a pay deal. But when you follow the money you know this is simply not true.

Before the pandemic, operators were paying out dividends of £262 million. Even in the year of Covid they paid out £38 million. Now passenger numbers are almost back to pre-pandemic levels, bumper payouts are back on the companies’ agendas too.

This dispute is about getting an equitable pay deal for train drivers that not too long ago, the government and TOCs were calling ‘key workers’ and heroes, helping transport goods and workers across the country throughout the entire pandemic. But they are now being slandered by those same people for having the audacity to try and keep up with inflation. Aslef members have the mandate and morale to fight, but as the old saying goes, ‘you can’t control what you don’t own’. Trade unions also need to fight for the public renationalisation of the railways, under democratic ownership and management of workers and service users, alongside a new workers’ party working in the interest of the millions not millionaires.