Train driver Photo: Lichen99/CC
Train driver Photo: Lichen99/CC

An Aslef member in the Midlands

This summer of Tory discontent is seeing one of the biggest nationwide industrial actions by train drivers in the Aslef trade union on 30 July. It will be the first major strike for some members. For others, it brings back memories of the renowned 1982 ‘flexible rosters’ strike under British Rail.

Aslef members across eight different Train Operating Companies (TOCs) absolutely smashed the anti-strike thresholds put in place by the Tories. With positive votes for strike action coming in on average at over 90%, Aslef members have a democratic mandate that these capitalist politicians could only dream of!

With pay frozen for over three years while inflation skyrockets, it was necessary for industrial action to be presented as an option. Every negotiation and chance to settle an equitable pay claim has been stonewalled by the employer.

However, the real puppeteer behind many of these TOCs, stopping fruitful negotiations from taking place, is the government. The Tories want to force working-class people to pay for the capitalist economic crisis.

We know the money is there. Millions have been siphoned off by our privatised railway system into the back pockets of shareholders in the form of dividends. Meanwhile, train drivers, who not too long ago were called ‘key workers’ by the government as they worked through the pandemic, can’t have their pay match inflation.

The poisonous campaign of divide and conquer tactics pushed by the Tories and their friends in the right-wing rag media, to turn worker against worker, in large part has failed. The race to the bottom is being rejected. It is vital to build upon this growing mood of workers fighting back by looking to coordinate action with the other railway unions against common employers where possible.

This is a turning point dispute that should be supported by the whole labour movement. But as the old saying goes: ‘You can’t control what you don’t own’. We battle for an equitable pay claim but the war must be for a nationalised, publicly owned railway, run for and by the interests of railway workers and service users.