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Train strikes possible during Commonwealth Games in row over pay

Train drivers could strike over pay as one million expected tourists arrive for the Commonwealth Games.

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Countrywide Post Office workers are also striking this month, hot on the heels of June’s Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT) strikes – the biggest rail strikes the country has seen in 30 years.

The ballot for strike action is underway among Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) members who work for West Midlands Trains Ltd (WMT – the parent company of West Midlands and London Northwestern Railways). If they vote yes, action will begin on July 25 – three days before the start of the Commonwealth Games.

In the year March 2020-2021, WMT made £123.9 million in profit after tax and Abellio, the company which owns WMT,  paid its highest paid director £597,000 in the year ending December 2020. The average salary of a WMT driver is £57,044 a year.

Mick Whelan, secretary-general of Aslef said: “Strike action is always the last resort for this trade union, but many of our members have not had a pay rise since 2019. We will fight to maintain the pay, terms & conditions, and the pensions of our members.

“The train companies are doing very well out of Britain’s railways – with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders, and big salaries for managers – and train drivers are not going to work longer for less.”

Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands, said: “The eyes of the world will be on our region when we play host to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games this summer and the sense of excitement and anticipation amongst local residents is building. It would be such a shame if strike action was to disrupt what should be an unbridled moment of collective celebration for us all.

“That’s why I hope through dialogue we can avoid this damaging course of action. Given the stake everyone in the West Midlands – including those considering strike action – has in these Games being a success, I’m confident we can get this resolved so that the people of the West Midlands can enjoy these Games to the full.”

A spokesperson for Transport for West Midlands said: “There are negotiations to secure coach services for the Commonwealth Games and these will be commercially operated, whether or not there is a strike. Those up front costs will be covered from the Commonwealth Games transport budget, but offset through income from fare paying passengers.

Voting ends on Monday July 11 – the same day Post Office workers are striking for the third time this year in a dispute around pay. 97.3 per cent of Communications Workers Union (CWU) members who work for Britain’s 114 Crown Post Offices voted to strike.

They faced a pay freeze last year and a pay offer this year of three per cent with a £500 lump sum fee from employers. Inflation in May was at 9.1 per cent and was the highest ever on record; the Post Office made £35 million in profits between 2020 and 2021.

On July 14 hundreds of CWU cash and valuables in transit (CViT) workers and their cash processing and administrative colleagues will also strike over pay.

Andy Furey, CWU assistant secretary said: “Our members feel betrayed and will not tolerate their living standards being smashed by people in charge of a public service that due to our members’ efforts made tens of millions of pounds in annual profits. There is more than enough money for a reasonable pay rise – implementing this pay cut is a management choice, not a necessity.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We want to assure our customers that the vast majority of our 11,500 branches are unaffected by the CWU decision to strike on Monday July 11 and will be open throughout the day.

“There are 114 branches, typically in city centres, that are directly managed by Post Office and on previous strike days over a third have opened as usual. We’re disappointed that the CWU have made the decision to strike but remain hopeful that we can reach a pay agreement soon.

“We have received notice that the CWU has called a strike involving supply chain colleagues on 14 July. We will have a range of contingency measures in place to minimise any possible disruption to the Post Office network on that day.”