TRAIN drivers manning Sheffield to London services are preparing walk out for a fourth day in less than a fortnight in a row over pensions - as talks begin the same day to resolve the dispute.
Bosses at East Midlands Trains have questioned why the discussions could not have been held sooner to avert this week’s walkouts, which happened yesterday and are also planned for tomorrow.
Strikes also took place last Tuesday and Thursday and two more are set to take place on the same days next week.
Drivers’ union ASLEF said talks had been arranged with the Stagecoach-owned firm tomorrow, with its general secretary Mick Whelan leading its negotiations.
Clare McCartney, East Midlands Trains’ HR director, said: “We want to meet now to get this unnecessary dispute resolved. This is a strike over nothing. The average driver will lose around £1,200 in pay by following ASLEF’s misguided call.
“We have a strong track record of properly funding pensions and we will continue to do so.”
The strikes are not only hitting London passengers but also local commuters - with Dronfield badly affected because the three main morning services used by people travelling into Sheffield for work are not running.
One city centre worker, from Dronfield, said: “I don’t see the point of having another strike before talks. The union should have held off on this week’s strikes. The walkouts are causing difficulties for people from Dronfield who need to be in the city centre by 9am - they are having to catch a train at 7am to make it to work.”
The dispute between drivers and East Midlands Trains follows the company being recommended to put less money into the pension scheme on recommendation of an independent pensions auditor.
ASLEF said in a statement: “We’ve been prepared to negotiate and to resolve this dispute for the best part of a year. EMT has decided to cut the amount of money going into our scheme so it becomes cheaper. And ‘cheaper’ inevitably means ‘worse’.”