More rail strikes after talks stalemate

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TWO more rail strikes will go ahead on Tuesday and Thursday after deadlock in talks between East Midlands Trains and drivers’ union, ASLEF.

Managers at the rail firm, which runs the route from Sheffield to London and one of the main services between Sheffield and Manchester, say they have been left ‘frustrated’ by the lack of agreement.

The two sides are in a dispute over changes to the company’s pensions scheme.

An independent audit has found the scheme is ‘overcapitalised’ so more money is being paid in than necessary.

As a result, East Midlands Trains wants to cut its contributions by £2.1 million a year and individual drivers’ contributions by £500 annually.

Clare McCartney, HR director for East Midlands Trains, said: “The East Midlands Trains pension scheme has been independently assessed as being in good financial health. It is one of the relatively few remaining final salary schemes in the UK, with a level of benefits most other people in the country don’t have access to.

“Our proposals would be a win for our employees, who could get higher take-home pay and build up a bigger personal pension pot. It would be a win for our business, allowing us to resolve an unnecessary dispute.”

But a spokesman for ASLEF said: “In the talks, management simply repeated their previous position.

“They will save £2.1 million a year according to our calculations and could walk out of the franchise – and pension scheme – when their contract ends in three years.

“Over 90 per cent of drivers voted for the strike and a majority returned ballot papers.

“We feel strongly that the planned changes are about saving East Midlands Trains money.”