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East Coast message for Lib Dems

31 March 2014

TSSA members were out in force on 7 and 8 March to support the campaign to ‘Keep East Coast Public’ and to oppose the coalition government’s attacks on essential public services.

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As Liberal Democrats were travelling to their spring conference in York, TSSA members, sister unions and community allies demonstrated from London Kings Cross through to Edinburgh Waverly against the coalition government’s planned re-privatisation of East Coast.

In addition to raising awareness of commuters at East Coast stations, a mass action was organised to greet Lib Dems as they arrived for their conference. A recent poll by Survation found that 68 per cent of people who voted Lib Dem at the last election want to keep East Coast in public ownership, yet Lib Dems ministers continue to support this ideologically- driven Tory policy.

East Coast has been in public ownership since 2009, after two successive private operators walked away for financial reasons. Customer satisfaction is now at record levels and the operator gives the highest returns to the taxpayer of any train firm whilst receiving the lowest public subsidy. Last year East Coast paid £208m in premium and dividend payments to the Treasury with turnover increasing by 4.2 per cent – a success by any measure. Virgin Trains’ West Coast service received seven times more taxpayer subsidy than East Coast did last year!

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Nick Clegg should be ashamed of himself for supporting the Conservatives’ crackpot idea for re-privatising the East Coast line on purely ideological grounds. As a publicly-run line, it has paid over £800m to the Treasury and costs less to run than all the other private rail firms who rely on public subsidies to make profits. This decision is the economics of the madhouse and the Lib Dem conference should send that message to its leader, loud and clear.”

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A Better Way to jobs and growth


The following day TSSA members from around the country joined the TUC’s ‘A Better Way’ demonstration outside Lib Dem conference in York.

TSSA, alongside other trade unions, political and social groups, was there to tell the Lib-Dems that there is a better way to grow our economy and protect our society than the coalition’s austerity policies.

It was also International Women’s Day, so it was appropriate that all the speakers on the day were women. Women have been disproportionately hit by the Tory-led government’s austerity cuts. The Women’s Budget Group has found that among lone parents, pensioners and families with young children, it is women within each group who are hit the hardest. In the private sector, for every 100 jobs created only 37 are going to women. In the public sector, two thirds of all jobs are carried out by women. Despite claims of a national economic recovery, in Yorkshire alone, unemployment amongst women has risen by 9,000.

In the run up to the event the regional TSSA office was a hive of activity. The local Trades Council, People’s Assembly and various other community groups all used the office to plan for the day. Placards were made and on the day a collection was held for the York Food Bank. Donations totalling more than 300kg of food were made.
 

Get involved

TSSA will be organising and participating in further Keep East Coast Public campaign actions in the run up to the planned announcement of the new franchise operator in October this year. For further information please contact Jerry Wines winesj@tssa.org.uk.

Upcoming events opposing austerity include ‘The People United’ protest and festival on 21 June organised by The People’s Assembly and the TUC’s major ‘Britain needs a pay rise’ demonstrations on 18 October, both in London.

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