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Government Command Paper - Heads they win tails you lose!

1 May 2012

On 8 Marc the Government eventually published its Command Paper 'Reforming our Railways: Putting the Customer First'. This was its formal response to Sir Roy McNulty's deeply flawed Rail Value for Money study published last May that aims to cut industry costs by up to £3.5 billion.

No Debate

Every January passengers are angered by inflation busting fare rises. You’d think our elected representatives at Westminster would reflect this anger and hold the Government to account and do something about it. Well you’d be wrong because they ain’t even going to be given the opportunity. The way the Government responded by means of a ‘Command Paper’ is fundamentally undemocratic. It sets out what the Government wants the industry to do but does not allow for any of the democratic processes or Parliamentary scrutiny normally used when making such major changes.

The Command Paper talks a lot about Network Rail and train operators working more closely together – including the creation of alliances, such as that already proceeding on the Wessex route and vertical integration on parts of the network where the train company takes responsibility for the track too. The Government is placing a great deal of trust in the industry in expecting the parties to co-operate. Too much trust in TSSA’s view – Dracula and running a blood- bank springs to mind!

Basically the train operating companies have been given almost everything they want – longer franchises, less responsibility, fewer restrictions, slacker contracts, opportunities to selectively assume responsibility for infrastructure etc. They may as well have cleared a space at the Department for Transport for ATOC to move in.

Passengers are going to continue to have to pay inflation busting fare increases for at least another seven years, with the added nightmare of other government sanctioned scams such as the introduction of ‘super peak’ fares. Government policy will also have an impact on customer service as there will be more ticket office closures, more driver-only operated trains/fewer trains with guards and fewer platform staff.

Given all these ‘efficiencies’ are attacks on rail workers’ jobs, pay and conditions as well as being cuts that will impact on passengers, there are clearly areas of mutual interest that can be worked on as the Government and employers plan to implement their plans.

There are obvious worries about what this means in terms of job security, pay and other terms and conditions. It’s not possible to say precisely how many jobs might go and over what timescale, but sadly we’re talking about many, many thousands.

What actually happens to services for the public and to staff in the workplace depends on what workers and passengers are prepared to put up with. Using a Command Paper to implement this policy, the Government has limited the opportunity for opposing the measures through Parliamentary channels. Potentially, the changes emanating from McNulty’s review and the Command Paper are the biggest attack on rail workers jobs, pay and conditions of employment in generations. It is important, therefore, that members are prepared to stand up for themselves and the communities affected by these reforms by building links with community groups and strengthening union organisation in the workplace. TSSA will be with you every step of the way.
 

Neil Davies TSSA Policy Adviser

For more details see both the TSSA and joint union briefings at www.tssa.org.uk/mcnultybriefing

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