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Britain’s Train Drivers’ Union has announced a new series of strikes ahead of the Conservative Party’s annual conference in October.

Drivers at 16 train companies will strike on Saturday, September 30 and Wednesday, October 4, Aslef said on Friday, meaning there will be few trains running to and from the conference in Manchester from Sunday to Wednesday .

Transport Secretary Mark Harper criticized Aslev’s decision to strike during conference for the second year running, after strikes in 2022 disrupted Conservative Party members’ travel to and from Birmingham.

“Aslev’s cynical strikes on September 30 and October 4 were politically motivated,” he wrote on social media.

Mick Whelan, Asleif’s general secretary, said the union was “encouraged”. . . “The action has been taken in these days” amid deteriorating relations with the government and criticism of strikes held around last year’s conference.

Aslev has been locked in a dispute with the railway company and the government for more than a year over proposed reforms to pay and working practices. Ministers handle the railways’ finances, allowing them to control the size of potential pay rises, which are negotiated by industry bosses with unions.

In April, the union rejected a proposal for an 8% pay rise over two years that would have been linked to sweeping changes to drivers’ working lives, such as more flexible shifts and overtime. Harper said if the proposal was rejected, the average annual salary for drivers would rise from £60,000 to £65,000.

The government and rail companies argue that higher fare rises are unaffordable given the financial pressures reduced commuting will put on railways, and that major reforms are needed to save money.

Whelan said the April pay offer was “ridiculous” and included a “land grab on all our terms and conditions”.

He said Aslev had not been in contact with ministers since January and had not held serious talks with train operators since April.

“The Department for Transport said we need to talk to the train companies and the train companies are complaining that they cannot sneeze without permission from the Department for Transport. We will talk to anyone. However, at the moment they will not talk to us,” he added.

Rail Transport Group, speaking on behalf of the train operator, said: “Further strike action by the leadership of Aslev will cause further disruption to passengers.

It added: “We want to give our staff a pay rise, but this is always about implementing necessary, sensible changes to enhance the service we provide to our passengers.”

The reporter contacted the government for comment.

In addition to two one-day strikes, Aslev also announced a ban on overtime work for drivers on September 29 and between October 2 and 6.

The RMT, Britain’s largest transport union, remains embroiled in separate disputes with industry and government and has staged a series of strikes since last summer.

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