Union boss admits wages of striking train drivers have risen by 17 PERCENT in real terms

A rail union leader today defended the continuation of the strikes, despite acknowledging that train drivers’ wages have risen by 17 percent in real terms since 2009.

Aslef boss Mick Whelan quipped that “you don’t get anything for free” as he shrugged off questions about how drivers can justify bringing the country to a standstill after wages have soared.

In a gory interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Whelan was challenged that his members had “done very well” compared to the 1 per cent above inflation bagged by the average worker between 2009 and 2021.

He was also grilled over whether the unions were using obstructive tactics and refusing to work overtime to get a better deal.

However, Mr Whelan insisted that the union had “given flexibility and productivity to get those wage increases” and blamed a “failure of privatization” for the seemingly never-ending disputes.

Aslef boss Mick Whelan quipped that

Aslef boss Mick Whelan quipped that “you don’t get anything for free” as he shrugged off questions about how drivers can justify bringing the country to a standstill after wages have soared

Desperate commuters at Euston station during last week's rail strikes

Desperate commuters at Euston station during last week’s rail strikes

Travelers face another near-total closure of the railroad when drivers stage two 24-hour strikes on Wednesday 1 February and Friday 3 February.

Train drivers from the RMT union, who are also on strike, will join Aslef union members at the picket line.

In reality, commuters are likely to face four days of travel misery – from February 1 to 4 – as the impact of strikes tends to affect services well into the following day.

The train strikes come despite operators offering Aslef drivers a “fair and affordable deal” that would have seen the average salary rise by nearly £5,000 (to £65,000) by the end of 2023.

The two-year collective agreement, the latest attempt to settle the protracted dispute between the government and rail unions, was immediately rejected before it was presented to union members, it has been reported.

Mr Whelan has said he is “chasing a pay rise that will at least depress prices” with inflation at over 10 per cent.

Pointing out that nurses are paid an hour and a half for overtime, moderator Nick Robinson asked Mr Whelan: “Are you saying because in the past someone was stupid enough to pay your members a day and a half to work overtime, you are not concerned with that settle for less?’

The union leader replied: “The reason for the rest day work is that we do not grant it for service coverage. However, what we do allow is overtime when we have a guaranteed hiring so people don’t have to rely on overtime to run their trains. ‘

He added: “I don’t think my people would work these trains for a lower wage rate even if we had an agreement.”

Mr Whelan does not deny that some recent cancellations have been caused by charts of drivers’ duties being sent to union officials half an hour late.

But he accused the company of acting in “bad faith”.

Robinson said: “Are those ONS figures I’ve seen correct that you, your drivers, had a 17 per cent real increase between 2009 and 2021?

“Compared to the average worker who got 1 percent. You did very well, Mr. Whelan, didn’t you?’

The union baron shot back, “I thought this was a government that thought skilled workers deserved high wages.”

He insisted the problem was that railroad companies were “making profits and making dividends”.

Urged on whether he would “question” the ONS statistic, Mr Whelan said there had been no real pay rise in the last four years and his workers had offered “flexibility and productivity”.

“Unfortunately, you don’t get anything for free,” he said, adding that “the aim of the union is not to work overtime”.

Mr Whelan acknowledged that trains in the UK were less reliable than in Ukraine but blamed the “failure of privatisation”.

“It’s been downhill since (the pandemic). The reality is that we have been trapped in a cycle of disruption for two and a half decades that we need to break out of,” he said.

A spokesman for Rail Delivery Group called the decision to reject the offer “disappointing” and urged Aslef to “recognize the real financial challenge facing the industry”.

RMT Chief Executive Mick Lynch said: “Our negotiations with rail operators continue to create a jobs, terms and pay package to be offered to our members.”

The trade unions are increasingly coordinating measures

The trade unions are increasingly coordinating measures

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11648177/Union-boss-admits-striking-train-drivers-pay-soared-17-CENT-real-terms.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Union boss admits wages of striking train drivers have risen by 17 PERCENT in real terms

Emma Colton

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