Disputes between trade unions and train companies in the UK have now been dragging on for well over 18 months, with rail workers taking action to protest poor pay and working conditions. So, it’s a surprise to absolutely no one that further strikes are taking place this month.
The ASLEF union recently finished a ‘rolling’ series of walk-outs which lasted from January 30 to February 5. A new round of strikes will be on the London Overground, where RMT staff will walk out on March 4-5 (another strike planned for February 19-20 has been suspended). There will be more industrial action on LNER and Northern rail services from ASLEF members on March 1.
But ASLEF strikes don’t look like they’ll be resolved anytime soon. In fact, ASLEF workers at five rail companies (Chiltern, C2C, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine) recently voted to continue striking for another six months until at least August 2024. In better news, the RMT says that it has come to some sort of agreement with the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) over pay and job security that will pause action by RMT members until sometime this spring.
Here is everything you need to know about upcoming industrial action on the UK’s rail network.
All you need to know about the train strikes in London.
When are the next train strike dates?
The next bout of action from RMT workers on the London Overground will last from 00:01 on March 4 to 23:59 on March 5.
ASLEF workers at LNER and Northern will also strike on March 1, as well as take part in an overtime ban lasting from February 29 to March 2.
The ASLEF union’s ‘rolling’ series of strikes and overtime ban finished on February 6 but, following the union members’ vote to strike until August, we can expect more industrial action on ASLEF services for the foreseeable.
What train lines will be affected?
For the RMT Overground strikes in March, only London Overground services will be impacted. During the ASLEF strikes on March 1, only services on Northern and LNER will be affected.
During nationwide ASLEF and RMT strikes, these lines across the UK tend to be hit.
- Avanti West Coast
- East Midlands Railway
- Great Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
- Greater Anglia
- GTR (Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Southern, Thameslink)
- South Western Railway
- Chiltern Railways
- Northern Trains
- West Midlands Railway
How will rail travel be affected by the strikes?
Workers at most rail firms take part in strike action, so rail travel typically comes to a standstill all over the country. You can find out more about how services are affected on the National Rail website.
Often, disruption isn’t just on the day of a strike. There is usually also an impact on services in the afternoon and evening on the day before each strike, as well as on the morning of the day after. This is because trains and drivers are out of their planned positions as a result of the strikes.
Do workers get paid when on strike?
UK law states that employers do not have to pay employees who take part in industrial action. However, some unions keep some money aside to issue strikers with ‘strike pay’ while they occupy picket lines. For example, the RMT has the National Dispute Fund, which is supported by union membership payments as well as donations from members of the public.
When will the rail strikes end?
Unless a deal on pay, job security and working conditions is reached between unions and rail operators, it’s likely that strikes could continue for a long while yet. ASLEF members at Chiltern, C2C, East Midlands, Northern and TransPennine just voted to continue striking until at least August 2024.
While the RMT reached a deal with the RDG at the end of 2023, this is only a temporary agreement until more discussions take place next spring.
Why are rail workers striking?
Different rail unions have been striking for different reasons – including job security and working conditions – but the overarching reason is a cut in real-terms pay.
RMT staff at the Overground are striking over a below-inflation pay rise. ASLEF workers on Northern and LNER are walking out over claims that the operators have persistently failed to comply with agreements concerning bullying and intimidation.
Drivers at ASLEF have also been walking out after what it called a ‘risible’ pay offer of four percent a year for two years, as well as changes to working conditions.
What’s the deal with working practices?
Due to changes in travelling habits following the pandemic, with fewer commuters and off-peak train travel, some bosses want to change previous ‘archaic’ working practices and to introduce new technology and run teams more efficiently. Unions fear this may lead to job cuts, and it’s one of the most contentious issues in the dispute.
Can I get a refund if my train is cancelled?
According to National Rail, if your train is cancelled, delayed or rescheduled due to the industrial action, you will:
• Be entitled to a change or refund from the original retailer of your ticket
• Be able to use your ticket with another train company or an alternative route if it is available
Is the Eurostar affected by the train strikes?
Eurostar has said that strikes will not affect its timetable. However, if you’re getting a connecting journey within the UK, make sure that you check whether it is still running before you leave and allow extra time when travelling to and from London on strike days.
What do rail chiefs and unions have to say about the strikes?
About the Overground strikes, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Our members are furious that they have been given a below inflation pay offer and want to see an improvement that represents the value they bring to the company.’
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan, said: ‘We have given the government every opportunity to come to the table but it has now been a year since we had any contact from the Department for Transport. It’s clear they do not want to resolve this dispute.
‘Many of our members have now not had a single penny increase to their pay in half a decade, during which inflation soared and with it the cost of living.
‘The government has now tried their old trick of changing the rules when they can’t win and brought in minimum service levels legislation. But this new law, as we told officials during the consultation period, won’t ease industrial strife. It will likely just make it worse.
‘There’s no excuse. The government and train operating companies must come to the table with a realistic offer so we can end this dispute and work together to ensure the future of our railways.’
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