February dates and train services affected

Rail strikes today: February dates and affected rail services

Rail strikes today: February dates and affected rail services

Train drivers are taking part in a new round of strikes on Friday, heaping further misery on weary commuters after a week earlier strike.

Those who challenged their commutes had to contend with zero trains running through 15 operators and the closure of major London train stations including Victoria, Cannon Street, Marylebone and London Bridge.

“We know there will be significant disruptions given the scale of the strike action,” Sunak spokesman Max Blain told reporters in London on Tuesday. “It’s going to be very difficult for the audience trying to go about their daily lives.”

Drivers from the dedicated union Aslef and the wider RMT railway union strike again on February 3 as a long-standing industrial dispute remains.

The strikes are the latest this year after rail workers launched industrial action during the first week of January, delaying a return to office for many until 9 January. It meant that train services were blocked from Tuesday 3 January to Saturday 7 January.

When are the next train strikes?

Both Aslef and the RMT will continue to strike Friday 3 February following their latest round of action on Wednesday February 1st. About 12,500 Aslef members are going out together with about 250 RMT drivers.

The train drivers were joined by thousands of workers from other unions on Wednesday February 1, in the biggest day of union action in more than a decade, according to the TUC.

Will the services in the following days be affected?

YES. This is because strike days often leave locomotives and their carriages stranded in the wrong depots and will need to be moved the following morning before they are ready to operate passenger services.

How many trains will run?

Commuters will be left stranded on Friday by 15 train operators who are not running trains.

The companies that do not operate trains are:

The following railway companies operate a modified service on strike days: Greater Anglia & Stansted Express; Great Western Railway; and LNER.

Whose fault is the dispute?

Unsurprisingly, both sides – unions on one; Network Rail, rail operators and government on the other – blame each other.

The railway unions say their members have been denied pay rises for the past three years. Combined with rising inflation, this means that many workers are actually taking pay cuts in real terms, i.e. because prices rise so rapidly, static wages are actually worth less.

However, union bosses conveniently ignore that no one from the rail sector has been placed on furlough during the pandemic, despite significantly fewer services being managed. Had they been relocated on government initiative, railway staff would have suffered an effective 20% pay cut under the terms of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

However, the government has not covered itself in glory.

Network Rail, which owns platforms, stations and signals, and the railway operators have effectively been nationalised. This means that any wage increase above the public sector norm of 2% must be approved by Westminster and politicians want companies to justify any increases by identifying cost savings to cushion the impact on the exchequer.

Although the RMT has rejected a number of payment offers from Network Rail, the train operators were not licensed to offer more than 2% until last month – and only then with a government condition that all guards on board they would have been cut.

That condition is a “red line” for both RMT and Aslef, who say it was inserted to doom the pay deal.

Last month, the condition to eliminate shipboard guards was removed as part of a revised deal that was being considered by RMT leaders. A “best and final” offer made on behalf of the government by the railway operators has offered workers a pay rise of 9% – backdated 5% for 2022 and 4% in 2023.

The union’s national executive committee has now decided to consult its branches on next steps and is expected to make a further announcement on whether to submit it to a membership ballot in early February.

So when will it end?

Speculation persists that final decisions were delayed until after Feb. 1, when 500,000 workers across multiple sectors left.

Talks between RMT and Network Rail continued with the union demanding a number of clarifications on the minutiae of the changes to the working arrangements, sources say.

The decision to back down on the condition to remove train guards could be a deal-breaker for RMT and ultimately for Aslef in his dispute with the rail operators.

It’s a similar situation on Network Rail, where slightly sweetened terms might be enough to break the deadlock.

RMT’s Mick Lynch is under increasing pressure from its members to reach an agreement. They’ve lost 18 days of pay since the spat began, as well as missing a lump sum payment related to 2022 and a raise this year.

For Mick Whelan at Aslef, it’s a different kind of pressure. The drivers’ union is seen as less militant, but will still stick to its demands for pay rises close to or even inflation rates.

There are also persistent fears within Aslef that the union will be kept at arm’s length while the railway operators reach an agreement with the RMT. It would be an extravagant move, but the concern is that the government and railway operators will agree to take onboard guardsmen with the RMT before offering Aslef a significantly higher pay rise in exchange for a condition that sees the guards demolished on the basis to their agreement, thus undermining any commitments to the RMT in the process.

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