South London tram drivers’ strike to follow national rail walkout

Tram drivers in south London are to become the latest rail staff to strike when they walk out for 48 hours on Tuesday in a dispute over pay.

About 150 members of the Aslef union on the London Trams network, formerly known as the Croydon Tramlink, have rejected a 3% offer from operator FirstGroup.

The move comes after a week of rail strikes across the country by members of the RMT union at Network Rail and 13 train operators. Talks between the union and rail industry bosses to avert further strikes were continuing on Monday.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser in London, said the pay offer to tram drivers would mean a real-terms wage cut for people already struggling to deal with rising bills. He said: “Our members do a difficult and demanding job, working round-the-clock shifts over 364 days of the year. They deserve a fair pay settlement.”

He said FirstGroup’s profits had soared and it was returning £500m to shareholders as well as paying its chief executive £840,000 last year. While the trams are funded by Transport for London, Brennan said the company “prefers to use the money it gets from TfL to funnel cash to shareholders, and wealthy executives, rather than pay its staff a fair wage”.

A spokesperson for First Group’s Tram Operations Ltd said: “It’s hard to understand how Aslef can justify going out on strike, having benefited from a change in terms equivalent to a 5%-plus rise only in November. Aslef should call off these strikes and return to negotiations.”

Trish Ashton, the TfL director of rail and sponsored services, urged Aslef to meet the operator to try to resolve the dispute, adding: “All customers travelling on the days set to be impacted by strikes are advised to check before they make their journeys.”

The walkout comes a week after a strike by London Underground workers from the RMT union brought the capital to a standstill. The union has a fresh six-month mandate for more strikes after a ballot last week – although subsequent comments by the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, that he was “not persuaded there were any grounds to change the pensions”, may have signalled agreement with the unions on one of the main areas of dispute.

Another rail strike, by train drivers in Aslef, will disrupt Greater Anglia services on Saturday.

Bus drivers in the Unite union working for Arriva in West Yorkshire were continuing on Monday into the fourth week of an indefinite strike, disrupting services around Leeds.