Train strikes: Union boss hints at more industrial action in 2023 - ‘there’s still a lot of anger out there’

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The train strikes sparked travel chaos for passengers over Christmas and New Year, but it’s looking likely there is more industrial action to come in 2023.

A railway union boss has hinted that there will be more train strikes to come in 2023 after industrial action over Christmas and New Year sparked travel chaos for passengers. Mike Whelan, general secretary of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF), said there was still “a lot of anger out there” among train drivers as a long-running dispute over pay continues.

Mr Whelan said the anger among train staff had been all the more exacerbated by anti-strike legislation being introduced to Parliament this week. The bill, if passed, would see unions representing key workers having to agree to minimum levels of service when their members go on strike.

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The Trades Union Congress (TUC) branded the bill “Draconian” and responded by announcing a national day of industrial action on February 1. The union said that the right to strike was a “fundamental British liberty” that the government was “attacking in broad daylight”.

Speaking to Kay Burley on Sky News this morning (Thursday, January 12) Mr Whelan said that he imagined “the whole trade union” movement would get involved. He added: “Any form of indenture where people can’t withdraw their labour or can’t have a voice, naturally we’ll oppose. We’re moving in a direction as a society that does frighten me.”

Asked if there would be more strikes on the railways in 2023, Mr Whelan replied “I believe so” but added that he could not say when they would take place. Unions are set to meet with Network Rail to discuss pay next week after rejecting a 5% increase in 2022 and a 4% pay rise in 2023.

“We meet next week to discuss - well, I’ll call it a non-offer,” Mr Whelan went on. “There’s a lot of anger out there. I’m being inundated both on social media and in my inbox by train drivers.”

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How much are rail workers paid?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has estimated the average salary of rail workers in 2022 was £45,919, based on five different job categories. Excluding train drivers, the estimate falls to £39,518.

But the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said the figure was still too high as it excluded rail cleaning staff who are not classed as rail workers by the ONS.

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