around 20 people are seen standing together. Behind them are trade union banners. Some where hi-vis jackets saying "Aslef official picket"

Solidarity with Aslef strikes as XR joins picket

Striking workers from the union Aslef received a boost as they were joined on the picket line by hundreds of climate activists.

Aslef, which represents train drivers, is striking across the UK against a failure by many train operating companies to agree to above-inflation pay rises. A picket line was held outside Temple Meads station from 6am on Saturday, July 30. 

Shortly after 2pm, a column of around 250 XR protesters who had been marching through the city for a day of action on fairer and greener public transport, arrived at the picket in solidarity with the strikers. 

Speaking to TBA, Bernard Kennedy, local Aslef branch secretary, said: ‘We don’t want to take this action, it’s the last thing we want to do. The people that should have been working today that are taking action are losing a day’s pay. But we find ourselves with no other options.’

He went on to say: ‘The members of Aslef nationally have not had a pay rise for three years and we worked all the way through the pandemic, in the front line, and the members are really angry about how they’re being treated by the government and tier train operating companies.’

Kennedy accused transport secretary Grant Shapps of ‘kicking the can down the road’ on negotiations, and said that whilst some train operators have agreed pay rises, others are not doing enough to meet with unions on the issue. 

‘If we don’t draw a line in the sand and take some action, it amounts to a pay cut,’ he said. 

Kennedy worked on the railways for 42 years before his recent retirement, first as a guard and then as a driver for 33 years. 

He said relations between unions and train companies were the worst he has them seen since the 1982 flexible rostering dispute. 

In the afternoon, the picket line was joined by members of other unions including GMB, Unison and the TUC who had held a small rally behind Temple Meads before marching to the picket line. 

Read more: protesters call for fairer public transport and public ownership

XR arrived at the same time, dramatically swelling the numbers on the picket. The climate protesters continued on to Temple Meads station where they paused to hear speeches before returning to the picket line. The XR samba band entertained the strikers before the XR column moved on back the way it had come. 

Kennedy said the support shown by XR ‘means everything,’ adding: ’I fully support Extinction Rebellion.’

He went on to say: ‘They’re campaigning about the system being wrong and their being to many cheap flights and I think their agenda is an excellent agenda and it’s great to see them here today supporting us.’

Aslef returns to the picket lines on Saturday, August 13 for a one day strike. 

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