Huge disruption is expected for rail services this summer after train drivers in the South East voted overwhelmingly to go on strike.
Hundreds of members of the Kent-based operator have announced their intention to back industrial action in a row over wages, job security and conditions.
Members of the Aslef drivers’ union from eight rail companies backed the walkouts today.
Among members in the Southeast, more than two-thirds (73.9%) indicated they were ready to strike with a turnout of 69.7%.
Stations potentially affected include Dover Priory, Ramsgate, Ashford International, Dartford, Sevenoaks and many more.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, said the action was a “last resort”.
“We don’t want to disturb passengers – our friends and families also use public transport – and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike, but we have been forced into this position by government-run businesses, ” he said.
“Many of our members – who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods across the country during the pandemic – haven’t had a pay raise since 2019.
“With inflation north of 10%, that means these drivers have taken a real pay cut over the last three years.
“We want an increase in line with the cost of living – we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.
He added: “It is not unreasonable to ask your employer to ensure that your situation does not worsen for three consecutive years.
“Especially as the rail companies are doing very well, thank you, outside of British railways, with handsome profits, dividends for shareholders and big salaries for managers.”
No date has yet been confirmed for the strikes, but the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), a union for transport and travel workers, said it will now consider next steps with representatives from the venue. work.
General Secretary Manuel Cortes said, “Congratulations to all of our Southeastern members who participated in these ballots.
“This is a great result for our union and follows similar votes across a range of other rail operating companies, with results expected from our Network Rail members shortly.
“The results demonstrate that our members are totally committed to fighting for their pay, their jobs and their conditions.”
He added: ‘They are right to do so amid the Tories’ escalating cost of living crisis and with a chaotic government determined to make sweeping cuts to our rail network as inflation rages on’ , he added.
“It would be unwise for a railway company to ignore the feelings of our members. We will speak to our workplace representatives soon to consider next steps in the coming days.
“If ministers had any sense they would come to the table and settle this, so we have a fair settlement for the workers who have been hailed as pandemic heroes.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport (DfT) said: ‘It is very disappointing that, rather than engaging in a serious dialogue with industry, Aslef is first seeking to cause further misery for passengers by joining with others to disrupt the rail network.
“The train drivers they represent earn, on average, just under £60,000 a year, more than double the UK median wage and far more than the workers who will be most affected by these strikes.
“Our railway is in desperate need of modernization so that it works better for passengers and is financially sustainable over the long term. We urge union bosses to reconsider and work with their employers, not against them, to agree a new way forward.
A Rail Delivery Group spokesperson added: “We want to see rail unions engage with rail operators on the reforms needed to ensure a bright long-term future for the industry, including working with Aslef to deliver the more punctual and reliable services than we know. passengers care.
“Instead of further disrupting passengers and businesses, we urge Aslef leaders to continue the talks.”
Southeastern – wholly owned by the DfT – runs rail services between London and Kent and parts of East Sussex, operating 1,600 trains a day serving 180 stations and covering over 500 miles of track.
The TSSA has nearly 350 members in a range of roles at Southeastern, including station staff, control, and some administrator and managerial roles.
Other member services affected are Chiltern, LNER, Northern, TransPennine Express, Arriva Rail London, Great Western and West Midlands Trains.