London Underground drivers are to strike on March 15 – Budget Day

Tube drivers, represented by the Aslef union, have scheduled a strike on March 15, which coincides with Budget day and is expected to divert attention away from Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spending Review.

The drivers are protesting about their pensions and working conditions and had previously gone on strike on November 10.

Mr Hunt faces mounting pressure to reduce taxes and increase public sector salaries. However, he has expressed concern that substantial pay rises for public sector workers could lead to inflation. Despite recent better-than-expected financial data, he has ruled out any giveaways in the upcoming budget.

Although Transport for London negotiates with the drivers, the organization has been facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic and changing work patterns, relying heavily on funding from the Treasury.

On March 15, the same day as the Tube drivers’ strike, more than 100,000 civil servants in the PCS Union and teachers in the National Education Union are also expected to go on strike.

While public sector workers have been advised to anticipate a 3.5% pay rise this year, according to submissions to pay review bodies, private sector salaries have increased by an average of 7.3%.

According to Aslef, the union representing the Tube drivers, nearly all the drivers voted in favour of the industrial action, with 99% of the 77% who participated supporting the strike. Furthermore, test train and engineering train drivers on the London Underground have also voted to walk out.

Finn Brennan, an official with Aslef, commented that the high turnout and overwhelming support for the strike show that union members are unwilling to tolerate any further threat to their pensions and working conditions. Although he acknowledged that Transport for London faces post-pandemic financial difficulties, he stressed that the drivers should not be responsible for the government’s failure to properly finance London’s public transportation system.

While the Tube drivers’ union is ready to engage in talks and bargaining over changes, its members are seeking a clear assurance from TfL that management will refrain from implementing adverse changes without mutual consent.

The Aslef representative cautioned that if TfL is unwilling to collaborate and acknowledge that changes must be mutually agreed upon and provide tangible benefits to workers, as opposed to only cost-cutting measures, then the upcoming strike would be just the beginning of a lengthy disagreement.

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