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Rail workers announce fresh train strikes in July and August

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Rail workers have announced two further days of strikes in August in addition to industrial action later this month, crippling the railways at the start of the Commonwealth Games and the football season.

Over 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) are expected to strike on August 18 and 20. They are employed across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies and are protesting over job security, pay and working conditions.

Aslef, which represents train drivers, will walk out on Saturday, July 30 in a row over their pay. Members at eight companies – Arriva Rail London, Chiltern Railways, Greater Anglia, Great Western, Hull Trains, LNER, Southeastern and West Midlands Trains – will take part in the strike.

The disruptions, which come during the busy summer holidays, are expected to affect sports fans attending the Commonwealth Games, which begin in Birmingham on July 28, and the opening weekend of the English Football League.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said on Thursday night: “The rail industry and the Government need to understand that this dispute will not simply vanish.

“Recent proposals from Network Rail fell well short on pay and on safety around maintenance work.

“And the train operating companies have not even made us a pay offer in recent negotiations.”

The strikes by Aslef members in July will come less than 48 hours after action by the RMT, meaning huge amounts of disruption across the entire week.

With the RMT walking out on July 27 and into the early hours of July 28, chaos is expected across the following 24 hours.

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, condemned Aslef for its refusal to try and thrash out a pay deal.

He said: “It’s incredibly disappointing that, just three days after their ballots closed, Aslef bosses have already opted for destructive strike action, instead of engaging in constructive talks.

“Not only that but, by cynically orchestrating strike dates with the Commonwealth Games, it’s clear union bosses are determined to cause as much misery as possible and derail an event the whole country is looking forward to.”

Drivers are pushing for a pay rise that will keep pay in line with inflation, which is currently running at a 40-year high of 9.1pc. 

Mr Shapps said: “Train drivers, such as those Aslef represent, earn, on average, just under £60,000 – more than twice the UK average and significantly more than the very workers who will be most impacted by these strikes despite stumping up £600 per household to keep the railway running throughout the pandemic.”

Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, said: “We don’t want to go on strike – strikes are the result of a failure of negotiation – and this union, since I was elected GS in 2011, has only ever been on strike, until this year, for a handful of days.

“We don’t want to inconvenience passengers – not least because our friends and families use public transport, too, and we believe in building trust in the railways in Britain – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike.

“But we’ve been forced into this position by the train companies, driven by the Tory government. The drivers at the companies where we are striking have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years – since April 2019.”

Typically train operators run a “Sunday service” – equivalent to 60pc of a normal weekday – on the day after strike action.

The RMT announced its latest strike dates on Wednesday. They came after the union left only one in five trains running during three days of action last month. 

The Aslef walkout is expected to leave just one in 10 services in operation.

The Telegraph reported that train operators were bracing for strikes by different unions to run close to one another, inflicting the maximum damage on commuters or those making their way on holiday.

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