Union boss blasts £2,000-a-year pay 'offer' for train drivers as 'tokenism'

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Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan at a picket line at Euston station in London (Image: PA)
Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan at a picket line at Euston station in London (Image: PA)

A union boss has dismissed a claimed £2,000 a year pay offer for train drivers as “tokenism”.

Reports say a new package worth 4% for two consecutive years will be put to train drivers union Aslef in a meeting early next week.

But Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan slammed the leaking of any alleged offer, and said it was likely to be rejected anyway.

“It seems to be tokenism,” Mr Whelan told the Daily Mirror.

“It is unlikely to be acceptable to our members.”

Teachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade rridqqieqiqerinvTeachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade

Even a 4% pay rise would fall well short of inflation.

Mr Whelan played down the chances of the dispute being resolved, saying: “We are months and a long time away from a deal.

“I would hope it would be resolved by the time I retire, and that’s three years away.”

It came as train drivers prepare to walk-out on Thursday in what is expected to be the biggest impact in a week of strikes by rail workers.

Just one in 10 train services are likely to run.

Union boss blasts £2,000-a-year pay 'offer' for train drivers as 'tokenism'Members of the RMT union outside Euston station (PA)

The RMT union is holding two 48-hour strikes this week, the second of which will take place tomorrow (Fri) and Saturday.

Union leader Mick Lynch today compared looming anti-strike laws with “what goes on in China and probably Russia and other repressive regimes”.

The rail union chief likened the Tory crackdown with countries where “trade unions aren’t free”.

In his first speech of 2023, Rishi Sunak confirmed information on anti-strikes legislation will be released “in the coming days”.

The Government is trying to push through the Transport Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which would ensure at least a skeleton service during walkouts.

Rail strikes to continue as RMT union members reject 'dreadful' pay offerRail strikes to continue as RMT union members reject 'dreadful' pay offer

The legislation, which is due before MPs again in the coming weeks,

currently only relates to transport but could be widened to include other industries.

Mr Lynch said the legislation essentially seeks to “ban strikes”,

explaining that if he wanted to run a signalling system from Scotland to Cornwall he’d have to get all the signallers to work even if only 50% of the trains were running.

Union boss blasts £2,000-a-year pay 'offer' for train drivers as 'tokenism'Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, joins members on the picket line outside Euston station (PA)

“Basically, you’re talking about the conscription of labour, even during a lawful dispute, and I would have to name my members that went to work to break our own picket lines and that’s unacceptable in a free society,” he told an LBC radio phone-in.

“We’re always being told that repressive regimes do things against the public, and of course, the mark of what went on in Poland and what goes on in China and probably Russia and other repressive regimes is that the trade unions aren’t free.”

The RMT boss added: “The right to strike is a fundamental human right. If you’ve not able to do that, the employer and the Government can dictate to you what you do as a previously free individual. That’s not acceptable.

“So I think all democrats, people of goodwill, should be opposed to the trade unions being corralled in this way because the Government is losing the argument on pay and working practices.”

Mr Lynch said that trade unions are joining up to campaign against the legislation, adding: “We believe it’s against the International Labour Convention, which has nothing to do with the European Court, but that goes way back to the 30s and 40s.”

Former TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady has previously said the Government should be focusing on negotiating with unions about pay, “rather than attempting cheap political pot shots”.

Labour has said it would oppose the “unworkable” minimum service levels legislation.

The RMT’s walked out Tuesday and today, with a 48-hour strike due to start on tomorrow (FRI), while train drivers who are members of Aslef will also strike across 15 rail companies on Thursday.

A Government spokesman said: “It’s right that as a responsible Government we’re ensuring we have the appropriate powers to keep the country moving and the public safe.”

Graham Hiscott

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