Rail strike chaos looms across Northern England next week because a greedy privateer pays its drivers up to £15,000 a year less than other companies.
The wage difference means drivers at Northern Rail jump at the chance when vacancies come up with other companies, causing driver shortages, confused rosters and leaving drivers unable to take leave.
Over 1,200 train drivers —members of union Aslef —voted by 82.2 per cent to take strike action, with an 82 per cent turnout.
They will stage two 24-hour stoppages — the first on Friday next week and the second the following Thursday.
Northern Rail operates services between the east and west coasts, and from the Scottish borders to Nottinghamshire.
Train driver and Aslef national vice-president Tosh McDonald said: “There can be a £10,000 to £15,000 difference between drivers’ wages at Northern Rail and other companies.
“Obviously when a vacancy comes up at another company with a £10,000 a year rise drivers leave, so there is always a shortage of drivers at Northern Rail. Drivers don’t even have to change their lockers — they work from the same place.
“So our members can’t get leave when they want it and they are constantly being messed around on the rosters.”
He added that the drivers should have received a pay rise in April, but there had been delays.
“They asked us to wait until they got an extension for the franchise to operate the services, when they could make a better offer,” said McDonald.
“We have rejected 2.7 per cent this year followed by 2.5 per cent next year.
“Trans-Pennine Express are getting 3.2 per cent this year, and Merseyrail got 4.06 per cent, so the pay gap is getting wider.”
Northern Rail is jointly owned by Serco — the privateer which operates a “tagging” system on behalf of the Home Office. It had to repay hundreds of thousands of pounds after claiming fees for tagging people who were dead or not in the country.
The other partner is the Dutch state-owned rail operator Abellio.
A new franchise for Northern Rail services is up for grabs by privateers.