Further industrial action has been announced by ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, as members push for better pay.
The strikes are set to impact 16 companies including Gatwick Express, which provides the rail passenger service between London Victoria, Gatwick Airport and Brighton.
ASLEF has declared that two days of strikes will take place on Saturday 30 September and Wednesday 4 October, as well as a ban on overtime across the UK rail network on Friday 29 September and from Monday 2 to Friday 6 October.
Mick Whelan, the union’s general secretary, has criticised the transport secretary, Mark Harper, by comparing him to Where’s Wally?. He has accused him of going absent without leave.
“While we regret having to take this action, we don’t want to lose a day’s pay or disrupt passengers as they try to travel by train”, he said.
“The government, and the employers, have forced us into this position. Our members have not had a pay rise for four years – since 2019 – and that’s not right when prices have soared in that time.
“Train drivers, perfectly reasonably, want to be able to buy now what they could buy four years ago.”
The union leader added: “Do you remember Where’s Wally?. Well, what we want to know is Where’s Harper? We last saw the secretary of state for transport in December … where is Mark Harper? He holds the purse strings”.
ASLEF has accused the Cabinet minister of hiding from talks with the union.
Jenny Saunders, customer service director for Govia Thameslink Railway, who operate Gatwick Express, said: “We’re really sorry about the impact this national industrial action is having on our customers using Gatwick Airport.
“We hope a resolution can be reached as soon as possible. If these full strikes go ahead, it’s likely they will affect services significantly, but it’s too early to confirm any details at this stage.”
In response to the announcement of fresh strikes, Gatwick Airport said it needs to liaise with the relevant train operators and assess the possible impact before it knows what mitigations will be in place. It wasn’t prepared to issue a statement.
ARGS has approached the department for transport for comment.
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