There could be more strikes on the tram network in the run-up to Christmas after union officials said that the operating company “torpedoed” a pay deal.
The tram network is operated on behalf of Transport for London by Tram Operations Ltd, a subsidiary of First Group.
The tram drivers have been staging strikes for better pay and conditions since June, but in September their union, ASLEF, suspended three days of planned industrial action after talks at ACAS, the arbitration service, had produced a better offer. Or at least they thought they had.
Today, the union’s district organiser, Finn Brennan, told Inside Croydon, “After a series of discussions on pay, brokered by ACAS, ASLEF believed we were close to a proposal we could recommend to our members on Tramlink for consideration.
“But we have now been told that FirstGroup are prepared to offer just a 2per cent pay rise from November 21, when the inflation rate was over 7per cent.
“While Steve Montgomery, FirstGroup’s managing director of rail, is reported to earn around £400,000 a year, his company is trying to force staff to accept real-terms pay cuts.”
Brennan highlighted how FirstGroup paid its shareholders £500million in dividends over the past year. “Sitting on government-backed contracts that mean they can’t lose, no matter how bad a service they provide, FirstGroup management have presided over the safety failures that led to the Sandilands crash in which seven people died and the collapse of rail services on the West Coast mainline.
“Rarely has a company demonstrated such contempt for its staff and its passengers.”
As it is approaching six months since ASLEF originally balloted its members over strike action, the union will shortly be conducting another vote on a recommendation of continuing strikes through Christmas and into the New Year. Ballot papers will be despatched next Monday, and voting will close on December 7.
If members vote in favour, the first strikes can be held from December 21.
“First Group torpedoed a deal to end the dispute,” Brennan said. “Tramlink drivers have already taken six days of strike action since June and are determined to keep up their action until a fair deal is reached.”
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