Tag Archives: rail

ASLEF’s Mick Whelan schools ignorant Tory minister on reasons for rail strike

Train drivers with the trade union ASLEF are on strike again this week (January 30 – February 5) as they enter a third year of dispute with 14 privatised rail operators.

The strikes have affected train operators including Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, Great Northern, GTR Thameslink, South Western Railway main line and depot drivers, and SWR Island Line.

They have caused widespread disruption, and passengers have been advised to check with their respective train operators for the latest updates on the situation.

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Drivers are stopping work region-by-region over the course of the week, couple with a nine-day ban on overtime that started on January 29 and will end on February 6.

Amazingly, the Tory government’s ministerial mouthpiece on the morning media round today (Tuesday, January 30) claimed he did not know why drivers were on strike:

ASLEF’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, explained why this might be, when he said neither the government nor the train operating firms had engaged with the union for a year.

In a Sky News TV interview, he added:

The government and rail firms say they have offered to raise average pay for drivers from £60,000 to £65,000 per year. That’s an increase of 8 1/3 per cent on the pay rate five years ago, which strikes This Writer as low – for example, MP salaries increased by 12 per cent in the five years between 2018 and 2023.

But which side will have public sympathy, in a country where the national mass media are rich businesspeople’s lapdogs?


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The UK supports public ownership of utilities. Why do none of our politicians agree?

Privatisation of public services and utilities has failed dismally. Why do both the Conservatives and the Labour Party under Keir Starmer support it?

Why are they determined to ram it down our throats?

We all know the problems with privatisation:

And we all know the tricks our politicians use to support privatisation:

So we all know that privatisation doesn’t work as a way of providing water, energy, healthcare, rail and bus services and the mail.

And when I say all of us, the polling is conclusive:

Here’s the problem:

At the next general election, neither of the main UK political parties are going to offer public ownership to the people.

You will not be allowed the chance to vote for it.

Don’t you think that’s, well… wrong?

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Your politicians should be seeking election on platforms that have public support, shouldn’t they?

They should have consulted with the electorate and they should be putting forward policies that we feel we can get behind – shouldn’t they?

Has any politician asked you if you support public ownership?

Have any of them asked if you support privatisation?

I’m guessing the answer is no.

Then, why on Earth would you vote for any of them? If they’re not offering what you want – and they very clearly aren’t – you need to find someone else.


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Why are private rail firms paying shareholders so much profit when they’re so far in debt?

Mick Lynch: he knows what he’s talking about. What a pity his interviewers can’t say the same.

Have a gander at this video clip, courtesy of the TUC – if you can get past the bizarre behaviour of the interviewers.

To me, it seems a very strange way of running a business.

If a firm is making a loss, it seems very strange behaviour for a national government to subsidise it – especially if it is still handing over huge amounts in dividends to shareholders.

That money should be covering the firm’s losses, shouldn’t it?

No wonder Mick Lynch’s union members haven’t had a pay rise in four years – and I’m willing to bet it was a pittance then!

Some might say low wages are better than being unemployed – but if these firms are being parasitised by fatcat investors, then by rights, they should be closed down and the bosses (and the investors) prosecuted for misuse of public funds.

Or so it seems to me.

Perhaps the government believes that the railways must continue running – but in that case, the obvious answer presents itself. It’s one that Mr Lynch himself points out the government has used.

Re-nationalisation.

Then there would be no shareholders to take dividends that should be invested.

Am I mistaken?


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The news in brief: Vox Political’s morning round-up for June 1, 2023

Paul Whitehouse, Lee Mack and Steve Coogan at Lake Windermere: here are three protesters who would be criminalised by Suella Braverman for causing “more than minor” disruption to other people’s day-to-day activities.

Right to protest: UK politicians urged to ‘do the right thing’

Peter Stefanovic’s emotional video clip demands that members of all Opposition parties in the House of Lords support Jenny Jones’s ‘fatal motion’ and kill Suella Braverman’s bid to stifle everybody’s right to protest with an undemocratic ‘Ministerial decree’. Let’s give him a moment to explain it:

Government hasn’t spoken to strikers since January

The general secretary of rail union ASLEF says the government hasn’t spoken to its representatives in almost five months because the Tories aren’t interested in ending strike action on the railways:

43 MPs throw support behind justice for WASPI women

From the i:

So far 43 MPs have written to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), calling for a speedy conclusion to its review of how much damage was caused by the way the pension age changes were communicated to women born in the 50s, and for fair compensation.

Among the 43 MPs are Ranil Jayawardena of the Conservatives, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron, former Labour Party chair Ian Lavery and Caroline Lucas of the Green Party.

The PHSO could recommend compensation anywhere from £100 to £10,000 or more per person.

Women born in the 50s claim they were not given enough notice that their state pension age would rise from 60 to 65, in line with men. It then moved to 66 for both sexes.

Many women retired early or made life-changing decisions based on getting their pension at 60. The ramifications of the policy change and lack of notice has left them in emotional and financial distress, they say.

Their plight is under review by the PHSO, which has already found the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) guilty of maladministration for failing to sufficiently inform the women about the state pension age changes.

Though the PHSO maintains its investigation is fair and impartial, it decided to take another look at its findings after recognising part of the report was legally flawed. This move has raised hopes of a higher compensation award, although it is not guaranteed.

As Waspi awaits the results of the review, which could come before summer, it is urging supporters to contact their MP to put pressure on the PHSO to “complete the investigation with a sense of urgency” and make “fair” recommendations for compensation.

Latest Universal Credit change will leave parents worse-off

From The Canary:

BBC News reported that the DWP will be rolling out a change to the amount it pays in childcare costs to parents/guardians. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced it in his Spring Budget. Until now, the department has paid £646 a month, per kid, towards childcare costs under Universal Credit. Now, as BBC News wrote:

The government will allow parents on the benefit to claim back £951 for childcare costs for one and £1,630 for two or more children – a 47% increase.

Universal Credit’s increase in childcare costs payments is still nonsense.

The cost of childcare is huge:

  • For full-time childcare, the average cost is £285 a week.
  • For part-time, it’s £148 a week.

The DWP’s £951 maximum for one child is per Universal Credit assessment period. That’s usually a calendar month – running from the same date one month to the next. So, on that basis the department would pay, at the most, £219 a week.

This is £66, or 23%, short of the average costs. Meanwhile, in 2022 parents were already paying out up to two-thirds of their wages on childcare.

DWP secretary of state Mel Stride has trumpeted about the news. Stride said: “These changes will help thousands of parents progress their career without compromising the quality of the care that their children receive. By helping more parents to re-enter and progress in work, we will be able to cut inactivity and help grow the economy.”

Stride’s claim of the DWP ‘helping parents re-enter’ work is based on parents effectively being worse off in work.

Labour policy pledges need a 3p income tax rise

From the i:

Labour’s policy pledges so far would cost the equivalent of a 3p rise in income tax, i analysis reveals.

Sir Keir Starmer has promised not to borrow for day-to-day spending, and to bring down the size of the overall public debt pile as a percentage of GDP.

Analysis by i suggests that Labour’s policies will require an additional £20bn of funding every year – the equivalent of raising the basic rate of income tax by more than 3p – beyond that already promised through small tax increases such as imposing VAT on private school fees and ending non-domiciled tax status.

Labour’s biggest recurring spending commitment is to extend free childcare to all children aged 11 and under, promised by shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson earlier this year. The IPPR think-tank estimates the cost at almost £18bn, although taking into account the Government’s own childcare plans announced at the last Budget the net cost would be more like £13.6bn. The party said that an expansion of childcare to all children is not its current policy despite Ms Phillipson’s promise.

The pledge to increase the foreign aid spending target to 0.7 per cent of GDP, after Rishi Sunak cut it to 0.5 per cent, would cost around £5.5bn; party sources say this will only be implemented when it is affordable to do so. Labour has promised to set up a £1bn “contingency fund” for the energy industry, and would also have to spend around £1.7bn on GPs’ salaries if it went through with plans by shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting to nationalise the network of family doctors in England – something which the party now says it will not do.

Other current spending commitments which would total less than £1bn each include increasing the number of mental health workers, recruiting more police officers and setting up breakfast clubs in every primary school.

There’s a lot in the i‘s list that Labour now says it won’t do. Doesn’t this suggest that Keir Starmer is really planning just a continuation of the current neoliberal Conservatism that is pushing the UK further towards ruin every day?

Also, considering the Tories gave £800 billion to very rich people for no very good reason, This Writer can’t see why Labour couldn’t produce £20 billion from the same place, and then tax the rich to keep the books in balance and prevent any inflation.


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RMT votes for six months’ more strike action

Mick Lynch: members of his RMT union have voted to continue strike action. Meanwhile, the government has subsidised rail firms with more money than the union’s pay demand.

This took me completely by surprise – I was concentrating on aspects of the local elections.

So I’m going to rely on Professor Tim Wilson for the details.

His comments about education are very interesting, I think.


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Union condemns Department for Transport over privatised rail firm dividends

Scam: rail firms (for clarity, the train in the picture is not run by one of the companies in the story) are being protected from the consequences of strike action with public money that is being used to pay shareholders. Meanwhile, workers’ pay demands are ignored and services cancelled.

Tory priorities.

It seems the Conservative government has happily green-lit the payment of £82 million in dividend payments to shareholders in two privatised rail companies, while refusing to accept the pay demands of thousands of people who actually work on the railways:

From the article:

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has allowed two private rail companies to be paid £82 million in dividends in 2022.

This is the despite the fact both companies are part of a major industrial dispute where hundreds of millions of pounds has been used to indemnify them against lost revenue from strike action.

FirstRail Holdings Ltd, the holding company for five FirstGroup franchises, and Govia Thameslink Railways, which runs the biggest franchise in Britain, have recently reported dividend payments of £65 million and £16.9 million respectively in their annual accounts for 2022.

Two of First Rail Holdings Ltd’s franchises, Avanti West Coast and Transpennine Express, have been the subject of public and political controversy after cancelling hundreds of services. In spite of this, the government has renewed or extended contracts for Avanti West Coast and may shortly do the same for Transpennine Express.

Govia won a contract to carry on running the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise from the government in October 2022 despite its sister company LSER being stripped of the Southeastern franchise for concealing public money.

The DfT allowed Go-Ahead Group to conduct its own internal inquiry into the failings at LSER and renewed Govia’s contract for the Thameslink franchise in spite of the fact that the two companies shared many of the same management personnel.

All these franchises have benefited from indemnification worth hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money by the DfT to cover the costs of lost passenger revenue during the ongoing dispute.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “The DfT is now little more than a representative of big business, geared to turning tax revenue into shareholder dividends.

“If you’re a private train operator, it doesn’t matter whether your problem is unpredictable passenger revenue, costly train leases or industrial action, the Secretary of State is there to help, opening the public purse and emptying it into shareholders’ pockets.

“This system is not operating in the interests of passengers, railway workers or the taxpayer.

“It is clear that only full public ownership of train operation in this country can save our railways from being looted by this gang of unaccountable spivs.”

Here’s an English-language explanation of what can only be described as a Tory-run scam:

It would be cheaper to bring rail back under public ownership all around – and that includes paying rail workers what they demand.

The RMT has no strike days currently planned after the government put a new pay offer on the table – but that doesn’t mean its workers will accept any such offer as fair.

Meanwhile, the government has been ring-fencing the failing rail operators against strike action – using public money. That’s your money.

It would be better to let the privateers fail, take the railways back into public ownership at low cost and pay the workers. The Tories aren’t doing it because they want to keep workers poor and pay the idle rich who do nothing for their wealth.


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Rail strike: Network Rail says a deal is close – the RMT says otherwise. Who’s right?

Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller reckons a “repurposed” version of a pay off made to rail union members last September may bring the rail strike to an end – but is he telling the whole truth?

He told Sky News that a ballot on the offer had won support from 36 per cent of the RMT members who voted on it:

But RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch pointed out that 36 per cent in favour meant 64 per cent – an overwhelming majority – were against the offer. He said the companies have continued to make profit during every strike day because the government has taken the losses instead – around £320 million.

And he added that the government and the railway companies are determined to run down pay, conditions, and – crucially – safety in a rush to grab as much profit as they can from the UK’s rail network, that suffers from crippling underinvestment:

This Writer is just a lay-person but from my position it seems this industrial dispute is far from being over – and won’t be until the company bosses and the government start listening to the concerns of the people who do the actual work.

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Jonathan Pie clarifies the situation on strikes and the government

The joy of Jonathan Pie is the way his clips highlight the difference between what a news reporter might say on-air, and what they actually may think.

In this case, we see him discussing how striking workers may be upsetting the apple-cart while he’s on-air, and expressing support for those same workers when he isn’t.

And it is very clear which line of discussion we are expected to support.

Here’s the clip. If you don’t agree with striking workers after this, you may have no soul:

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Rail strikes suspended for talks on new deal – but is anything new on offer?

Mick Lynch: he wasn’t holding back when he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time. Has anything changed?

Does Mick Lynch have a good reason to suspend rail strikes?

Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Mr Lynch, the RMT union’s general secretary, said

there had been “the promise of an offer” on pay from the rail operating companies.

However, when contacted by the BBC, rail employers and the government said their position had not changed.

If they’re not offering anything new, then there’s no reason to suspend strike action – is there?

The BBC’s report added that the suspension has been announced 11 days before a fresh RMT strike ballot is due to close on November 15.

Mr Lynch previously told the BBC that he expected workers to vote in favour, and warned that there could be strikes for another six months if no agreement is reached.

Will the new talks affect the way the ballot goes? Will they even take place before it finishes, so union members can be sure of the situation when they go to vote? Is the new offer – whatever it is – just an attempt to interfere with the result of the ballot?

Could Mr Lynch have behaved any differently?

This Writer isn’t sure he could have. But I wonder whether the future of rail services is being wagered on a form of negotiation brinkmanship.

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‘Summer of Discontent’: bus drivers join TfL and rail workers in strike on August 19 and 20

Some of us are old enough to remember the ‘Winter of Discontent’ of 1978-9 that led to the toppling of a Labour government and the installation of Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.

So I’m delighted that the tables are turned and the Tories are getting the same treatment.

Here’s the gist:

London bus drivers have joined the UK’s “summer of discontent” and announced a strike for 19 and 20 August following a dispute over salaries.

The union Unite said more than 1,600 of its members working for bus operator London United will join the walkout after the company’s parent, RATP Dev Transit, offered a 7.8 pay increase over this year and next.

The walkout is expected to create maximum disruption, as it will coincide with both the TfL and national railway strike.

It’s another step in the right direction but will the UK’s Tory government pay attention to anything less than a national strike?

And, the way matters are progressing, how long will it be before that happens?

Source: Bus drivers join ‘summer of discontent’ and announce strike for 19 and 20 August

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