TSSA has submitted damning evidence to the Transport Select Committee following a formal meeting that took place on rail strikes held on Wednesday 13th July, ahead of further industrial action across what some are calling the ‘summer of discontent’.
An unprecedented number of simultaneous ballots has been undertaken with rail employers so far in 2022, reflecting the strength of feeling among workers regarding the dispute over issues of pay, job security and terms and conditions.
The evidence submitted to the Parliamentary committee by TSSA, details six key areas of the dispute:
- Factors behind the dispute
- The involvement of the Secretary of State
- Misleading media comments
- Deliberate obfuscation on the future of ticket offices
- Ticket prices and worker pay
- Rail company profits
The evidence TSSA presents seeks not only to rebut untruths that are being told by politicians and certain sections of the media, but also to highlight those areas of the debate that are being overlooked, in particular the continued levels of profiteering both during and since the worst effects of Covid 19.
Factors Behind the Dispute
This dispute has arisen out of lack of response from employers and their inability to negotiate.
TSSA members last had a pay rise in either 2019 or 2020. This means there has been a two- and three-year period of not only pay freezes, but taking inflation into account, real terms pay cuts.
The Department for Transport press office issued a public comment implying TSSA had no interest in negotiating. This is patently untrue.
TSSA has sought out meetings and, when arranged TSSA officials were in attendance and ready to negotiate in good faith. Officials made numerous meeting requests to Network Rail in the normal manner to discuss terms going forward. It was only after TSSA moved the issue of pay into dispute status that meeting dates were forthcoming – almost five months after the initial request. Where several sets of talks were held with train operators, it became clear to TSSA that the operators were being prevented from tabling any sort of pay offer by the Department of Transport.
This evidence was provided, and a retraction of the Department of Transport’s comment was requested by the TSSA. The Transport Secretary has not replied.
The Government have engineered a dispute that did not need to take place.
The Involvement of the Secretary of State and Misleading Media Comments
The Secretary of State at the Department for Transport has attempted to downplay his level of involvement in the current dispute. However, evidence in TSSA’s submission highlights how heavily involved the Transport Secretary is.
In early 2022, TSSA started to examine the new National Rail Contracts (NRC) that passenger train operators are now being required to sign. TSSA’s submission to the Transport Select Committee highlights the huge level of control the Secretary of State seeks to exercise over railway employees and the industry in these NRCs. From requirements that operators get a written mandate from the Secretary of State before being able to engage with a union to new Employee Policy Framework and Disputes Handling Policy “subject always to the Secretary of State’s direction”. Yet the Secretary of State refuses to meet with Trade Unions whose workers are affected by his plans.
The submission goes on to detail how the Transport Secretary and Department of Transport have made comments attacking trade unions and TSSA members, further fuelling poor relations.
The Secretary of State at the Department for Transport is heavily involved in this dispute and refuses to meet with Trade Unions whose workers are affected by his plans.
The Future of Ticket Offices
Industry proposals shared with unions in June 2022 show clearly that every ticket office in the country is under threat of closure. This was also outlined in the Williams Shapps Plan for Rail, published in May 2021. But during this dispute the Department of Transport have denied and obfuscated on the question of the future of ticket offices.
While acknowledging that talks on this matter are ongoing, and stating extremely serious reservations about the proposed closures, the proposals exist. Why then is the Department of Transport and Transport Secretary denying them?
Ticket Prices and Pay
The Transport Select Committee will be aware that rail fares increases are usually set by taking the July RPI rate plus 1% to apply the following January. Information published by National Rail shows a breakdown of where fare money is used and says that 25% is used to cover staff costs.
TSSA asks if ticket prices have continued to rise and wages are ‘baked in’ to these fares, why have wages not risen too?
Members are not seeking backdated pay in this dispute. And contrary to popular attack lines, while there are some people on high salaries in the rail industry – in particular CEOs such as Andrew Haines of NR who receives in excess of £580,000 – there are many low paid workers across railways. TSSA have members in LNER in customer relations who earn £18,803 – just above the minimum wage. Many ticket office and station staff will be on salaries in the low to mid £20k range.
Rail Company Profits
No train opepators own their trains, instead these are hired out by Rolling Stock Leasing Companies (referred to as ROSCOs). The amount paid to ROSCOs stood at £3bn in total, second to staff costs at £3.6bn.
TSSA brings to the attention of the Transport Select Committee that the Government and operators have sought to justify cuts to staff and an inadequate pay increase because of the support the industry received during Covid. Meanwhile, no restriction appears to have been applied to profiteering at a time of the national Covid crisis.
Private train operators have done well out of the way that they are allowed to extract profits at a time when the Government has been putting in huge sums of support. All have been guaranteed a profit when nearly half had posted a loss in the previous financial year. Railway workers on the other hand have paid through a lack of a pay increase since April 2020, thousands finding their jobs, pay and conditions are under threat, pension is being proposed to become more expensive despite a reduction in certain benefits.
TSSA wants to emphasis is the perspective of tens of thousands of railway workers who have now voted in support of taking industrial action. For many of those people this will be the first time that have voted for strike action and the first time that they have participated in it. Like all workers, industrial action is not taken lightly because it means they lose pay every time that go on strike. Despite being affected by the current cost of living crisis when every penny counts, TSSA members and railway workers as a whole are giving a very strong message to the Government and their employers that they have had enough.
Transport Select Committee rail dispute evidence
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