DRIVERS ON English Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS) struck solidly last Saturday and plan another strike this Saturday. They run freight trains and are members of the Aslef union. EWS drivers are demanding what they have been campaigning for over the last three years-a proper pay rise, a 35- hour week, all of pay to count towards pensions, and a maximum ten-hour day.
The strike stopped all freight traffic and also halted snowploughs on the network. A driver told Socialist Worker, 'This is a very good start to our action. It shows there is 100 percent support for it among our members. Now we need to turn the screw to win our just claim.' The next strike is from 3pm Saturday afternoon to 3pm Sunday afternoon.
Leaders of the Aslef union are calling for a national agreement across all the rail firms on drivers' pay. They said last weekend that if there is no agreement to reintroduce central wage negotiations by May, their 17,000 members will be balloted on industrial action. At present there are 36 different rates of pay. Aslef wants to see a single rate, but with premiums for drivers with some companies.
Aslef leader Mick Rix says it's not simply about pay. 'The union also wants a return to national standards on safety, training and recruitment. Of the 3,500 drivers recruited over the past two years, only 1.5 per cent were women. 'Twenty years after the Brixton riots, high unemployment still exists in black areas because there are no positive recruitment policies.'