British rail services are set to face disruption once more as the ASLEF union, representing thousands of train drivers, has declared a series of planned train strikes over pay and working conditions. This renewed industrial action promises widespread service interruptions, impacting commuters and necessitating adaptation from employers.
Train Strikes: Background
The dispute at the heart of these train strikes stems from a long-standing disagreement between ASLEF and train operating companies. Train drivers, crucial to the national network’s operation, have not received a pay rise in nearly five years.
Amidst rising inflation and living costs, their frustration is mounting. They seek a fair pay increase reflecting their essential role and aligning with the economic climate.
Train companies, however, cite the pandemic’s significant financial impact and propose a pay rise contingent upon changes to work practices, including extended shifts and reduced overtime.
This trade-off has been strongly opposed by ASLEF, who perceive it as compromising their members’ safety and well-being.
The planned train strikes will unfold in a series of rolling actions, impacting different operators on specific dates. The initial wave begins on Tuesday, January 30th, 2024, affecting Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink, and South Western Railway.
The disruption will continue throughout the following week, with drivers at Northern Trains, TransPennine Express, Greater Anglia, C2C, LNER, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, Great Western, CrossCountry, and Chiltern joining the action on designated days.
Full list below:
- Tuesday 30 January: Southeastern, Southern, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Thameslink, South Western Railway and SWR Island Line
- Wednesday 31 January: Northern Trains, Transpennine Express
- Friday 2 February: Greater Anglia, C2C, LNER
- Saturday 3 February: West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway
- Monday 5 February: Great Western, CrossCountry, Chiltern
This staggered approach means some routes will experience multiple days of disruption, while others may face limited service or complete shutdowns. Commuters are advised to check their respective train operators’ websites for detailed schedules and alternative travel options.
Employer and Employee Obligations During Train Strikes
With upcoming rail strikes looming, here’s how employers can support their staff:
- Accommodate: Allow flexible hours, offer overnight stays if needed, and avoid harsh disciplinary measures for genuine strike-related absences.
- Plan Ahead: Have a clear travel disruption policy outlining non-payment during strikes and employee communication protocols.
- Discuss Alternatives: Explore pre-strike options like remote work, adjusted schedules, or using annual leave.
- Embrace Remote Work: Consider long-term work-from-home arrangements, especially if strikes linger.
Remember, employees legally can’t be paid for strike days if work is available, but their absences during such circumstances shouldn’t be penalised unfairly.
Open communication and flexible solutions are key to navigating these disruptions and prioritising employee well-being.
The train strikes highlight the vulnerability of the nation’s transport infrastructure and the importance of fair working conditions for essential workers.
While managing the immediate disruption and navigating the legal landscape is paramount, these actions also spark broader discussions about income inequality, the cost of living crisis, and the future of the national rail network.
As the train strikes unfold, a focus on open communication, flexibility, and a commitment to finding a fair resolution is essential to minimising disruption, protecting the rights of both employers and employees and ultimately ensuring a sustainable and reliable rail network for the future.