All grades in Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) have been battling over pay in recent months, and have taken both official and unoffical strike action. ATW has two separate pay rounds, and the anniversary dates were 1 July for drivers and 1 April for other grades.
Last September, TSSA took official strike action in the Driver Manager grade. RMT and ASLEF members respected picket lines and took unofficial solidarity action.
In October, RMT and TSSA balloted all non-driving grades on ATW for strike action. RMT members voted 90% yes; TSSA members 63% yes. ATW made a new, ‘final’ offer, which the unions recommended members reject in a referendum. In the face of this resistance, ATW’s ‘final’ offer suddenly was not so ‘final’ after all, and the company made another, improved offer, which both unions accepted. This deal included moving the pay anniversary date to 1 July, the same as for drivers, which would unite the grades in future pay battles.
In November, ATW made an offer to drivers. It included depot cross-cover, which would give the company a big productivity saving, and a pay rise that was above inflation but would still leave ATW drivers lagging behind drivers in other TOCs. ATW drivers are currently paid just £32,168.
RMT's Executive recommended rejecting the offer, but against their own Company Council reps' opposition, ASLEF’s Executive recommended accepting it. Both unions held a referendum, and both sets of members rightly rejected the offer, ASLEF’s members defying their national leadership to do so. Arriva Trains Wales has an unusually high number of RMT members in the driver grade - around 150 out of 500 - and both RMT and ASLEF have Company Council reps for drivers.
ATW then made a new, better offer, and both unions’ Executives recommended accepting it. In their referenda, RMT members went along with their leadership's advice, albeit narrowly, but ASLEF’s members once again voted No, perhaps partly due to dissatisfaction with the offer, partly due to long-standing animosity between the local rank-and-file members and the national head office.
ASLEF held a strike ballot, and RMT - not wanting to break an ASLEF strike but nonetheless having accepted the pay offer - set up a strike ballot over a separate issue concerning workiing conditions. Over Christmas, ATW and ASLEF held private talks excluding RMT, who prepared to ballot in protest.
Meanwhile, pay talks continued, with drivers feeling more and more frustrated. With the ballot deadline looming on 11 February, drivers found that they had an important barbecue to attend on Sunday 8 February, and members of both unions stayed away from work.
ASLEF has now accepted ATW’s pay offer - which is the same as the earlier offer with the exception that it moves the drivers’ pay anniversary date to 1 August! The apparent extra money in the offer simply reflects this move. So after a brief spell when it looked like all grades could fight their pay battles simultaneously, ASLEF has undone this, perhaps to avoid having to sit in the same room as inferior grades.
The drivers’ unofficial walkout got more media attention than BBQ days normally would, no doubt due to the oil refinery walkouts. Hopefully, it will contribute towards the growing momentum for unofficial action over pay and jobs.
Meanwhile, RMT may now ballot its ATW members over a plan by management and ASLEF to gerrymander LDC constituencies to reduce RMT represenation under the guise of ‘depot integration’.