Head of union concedes that real wages of striking railway drivers have risen by 17%

Head of union concedes that real wages of striking railway drivers have risen by 17%

Today, the head of a rail union defended the continuation of strikes despite the fact that train drivers’ real salary has increased by 17% since 2009.

Aslef chief Mick Whelan quipped that 'you don't get something for nothing' as he shrugged off questions about how drivers can justify bringing the country to a halt after the surge in wages

Mick Whelan, the CEO of Aslef, joked, “You don’t get something for nothing” in response to concerns about how drivers can justify bringing the country to a halt following the wage increase.

In a bruising interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today show, Mr. Whelan was pressed on his statement that his members had been “doing very well” compared to the 1% above inflation the average worker has earned from 2009 to 2021.

In addition, he was questioned as to whether unions were utilizing obstructionist strategies and refused to work overtime to obtain a better agreement.

Mr. Whelan, meanwhile, argued that the union had provided “flexibility and productivity to generate those pay increases” and blamed a “failure of privatisation” for the apparently constant disagreements.

Aslef chairman Mick Whelan quipped, “You don’t get something for nothing” in response to concerns about how drivers can justify bringing the nation to a standstill in the wake of a salary increase.

Worried commuters at Euston station amid last week’s rail strikesDespairing commuters at Euston station during the rail strikes last week

When conductors undertake two 24-hour walkouts on Wednesday, February 1 and Friday, February 3, they will cause a near-total shutdown of the rail system.

Members of the RMT union who drive trains and are also on strike will join Aslef members on the picket line.

In actuality, commuters will likely experience four days of travel misery – from February 1 to February 4 – as the knock-on effects of strike action generally extend into the next day.

Operating firms had offered Aslef’s drivers a “fair and affordable offer” that would have resulted in an average salary increase of over £5,000 (to £65,000) by 2023’s end.

According to reports, the two-year salary settlement, the latest attempt to resolve the protracted conflict between the government and rail unions, was rejected outright before to being presented to union members.

Mr. Whelan has stated that he’seeks a wage raise that at least makes a difference in pricing’, given that inflation is currently over 10%.

Nick Robinson, pointing out that nurses earn double-time for overtime, questioned Mr. Whelan, “Are you saying that because someone was foolish enough to pay your members one and three quarter days for overtime in the past, you will not accept anything less?”

The union leader responded, “The purpose of rest day work is that we do not provide it to cover services… What we do permit is overtime work when we have guaranteed recruiting, so that individuals are not dependent on overtime labor to operate their trains.’

He continued, “I don’t believe my employees would operate those trains for less pay, even if we had an agreement.”

Mr. Whelan did not deny that some recent cancellations were the result of diagrams of driver tasking being given to union representatives half an hour late.

However, he accused businesses of behaving in “bad faith.”

Robinson asked, “Are these ONS statistics I’ve seen accurate, indicating that between 2009 and 2021, your drivers experienced a 17 percent increase in real terms?”

‘Compared to the average employee who received 1%, they received 2%. You’ve been doing quite well Mr Whelan, haven’t you?’

The union leader retorted, “I thought this was a government that believed skilled workers deserve a high wage.”

He argued that the issue was that railway operating corporations were “generating profits and dividends.”

When asked if he was “questioning” the ONS number, Mr. Whelan responded that there had been no genuine wage increase in the preceding four years and that his employees had demonstrated “flexibility and productivity.”

“Unfortunately, you don’t get something for nothing,” he added, adding that the union’s “goal is to eliminate overtime work.”

Mr. Whelan admitted that trains in the United Kingdom were less reliable than in Ukraine, but blamed the “failure of privatization.”

Since (the pandemic), circumstances have deteriorated. We’ve been locked in a cycle of disruption for twenty-five years, and we need to break free,’ he said.

Rail Delivery Group spokeswoman described the decision to reject the offer as “disappointing” and urged Aslef to “recognize the real financial challenge facing the industry.”

RMT chief Mick Lynch stated, “We will continue to negotiate with the rail companies to create a package on jobs, conditions, and pay for our members.”

Unions are increasingly coordinating their efforts.

 

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