North East UK news North East politicians back rail strikes amid cost-of-living crisis PremierLeague-News.Com
PremierLeague-News.Com - Labour politicians joined train drivers on the picket line at Newcastle Central Station as industrial action saw rail services hit hard.
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! North East Labour politicians backed striking train drivers at Newcastle's Central Station on Saturday, with figures including North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll and Jarrow MP Kate Osborne urging rail bosses back to the negotiating table - and saying: "Enough is enough." As a day of industrial action from members of train drivers' union Aslef progressed, figures both the union and the rail industry confirmed further talks were likely to happen this week. This comes after the 24-hour strike action was taken over issues including jobs, pay and working conditions. Train drivers across nine companies - including LNER and CrossCountry - were involved in the walkout which saw vastly reduced services from Newcastle. Staff at other firms - including Northern and Trans-Pennine Express - are currently being balloted over similar action. On the eve of the strikes, Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said train companies were unable to offer a pay rise without the permission of the Department for Transport, but the Government was insisting it had nothing to do with them. Read more: Hebburn mum's heartbreak after 'cheeky' son tragically took his own life aged 22 The strikes have hit travellers including football fans, with no CrossCountry services at all operating, along with drastically reduced timetables for LNER services south to London and north to Edinburgh. Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery and Durham City MP Mary Kelly Foy joined Mr Driscoll and Ms Osborne on the picket line to support Aslef's workers. Jamie Driscoll told ChronicleLive : "Morale is good and the public are supporting these workers. And that public support is because by and large people are experiencing the same thing - that by the time you get to the end of the month, everyone knows it's increasingly difficult to pay your bills. Striking train drivers at Newcastle Central Station on August 13 (Image: Newcastle Chronicle) "For the striking workers today, nothing's changed. The Government needs to get around the table and talk to them." Mr Driscoll sits on the boards of both Rail North and Transport for the North, and said it was notable that some companies had now settled with their drivers. He added: "These drivers haven't had a pay rise in three years or a pay agreement in five. Everyone knew this was coming. We have all been saying that." He added that by not giving workers a pay rise, the UK rail industry was in effect subsidising the nationalised firms abroad which have stakes in the big rail companies. Ms Osborne added that it she had been pleased by the turnout at the picket lines. She said: "I spoke with one young woman who said it was the first time she had been at a picket line but felt that she wanted to go down and show solidarity. We have seen action from the CWU, RMT and now ASLEF. And we are likely going to see a lot more over the summer. "I think people are behind these workers.
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. Everyone realises we are in a cost-of-living crisis, inflation is running at 9% - and the rail companies handed out millions to shareholders while suppressing workers' wages. "I think enough is enough. People have had enough of big business and big rail companies taking the mickey. I was there to show my solidarity and show that I fully support them. I know workers don't take strike action lightly. We have heard the companies might get around the table again next week - it's a pity it's strike action has been necessary to force that." Rail industry bosses and union group Aslef are expected to hold formal talks next week, with both Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, and Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan confirming this. Mr Whelan told the Press Association: "I’ve been fed hundreds of pictures from across the UK from Ashford, to Hull, Manchester, Liverpool to numerous places where we’re seeing picket lines of 20-30 people. I also want to thank all those other trade unionists and members of civil society that have come out and supported us today – trades councils, other trade unions, local groups. "This seems to be, as opposed to other transport strikes, (something that) people get, they understand it’s all sectors, all workers, all (doing) something because of the cost-of-living crisis." He added he was keen to resolve the issues members are facing and to “get back to his day job”. Mr Montgomery described the planned formal talks as a “really good step forward”, telling the BBC's Today Programme: "It is important we get round the table and we start to have meaningful discussions about how we can look at reform so that we can then offer our staff a pay increase. It is really important we take this opportunity and try and hopefully prevent further strikes and get some result to this situation.” The union is also balloting drivers at Chiltern Railways, Northern Trains and TransPennine Express for strikes, with the results due later this month. Results of strike ballots at Northern and TransPennine Express are due later this month, while fellow transport unions the RMT and TSSA are set to hold their own further strikes on August 18 and 20. The Department for Transport said it was “entirely false” to claim the Government was blocking negotiations. “We have said from the outset we urge the unions and industry to agree a deal that is fair for railway staff, passengers and taxpayers,” said a spokesperson. The department pointed out that £16 billion was spent to keep the railway running during the height of the pandemic, adding that without that support there was a risk companies would have collapsed, and thousands of jobs could have been lost. They also claimed rail workers had seen above average pay increases over the past decade, with their wages increasing by around 25% over the decade to 2021 - and said that rail staff pay increases must be “fair and in line with the wider public sector.” READ NEXT: Newcastle GP hits out at health service pay and warns brain drain could see 'two-tier NHS' NHS trust could face £8.5m deficit this year - as vacancy rates and staff sickness see big spend on agency workers Ambulance service bosses warn patients 'coming to harm' over increasing hospital delays 41 percent of kids in key worker families in North East living in poverty CQC hits NHS mental health and learning disability trust with 'requires improvement' rating
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