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TSSA to Ballot over Rail Safety in Scotland

12 January 2016

Rail workers in Scotland will be balloted on industrial action next week if theScotRail Alliance press ahead with their cuts to numbers of safety critical Control staff.

Rail workers in Scotland will be balloted on industrial action next week if the ScotRail Alliance press ahead with their cuts to numbers of safety critical Control staff. 
 
The TSSA union is warning plans to reassign train Control staff - the rail equivalent of air traffic control - will place a huge strain on the safe management of Scottish trains and so increase the risk of accidents on the the network.
 
ScotRail Alliance management are seeking to redeploy at least seven Control staff, mostly from the Cowlair Control Centre near Glasgow. TSSA members are resisting these changes because their specialised jobs are essential to both passenger and industry safety.  
 
TSSA represents around 80 control personnel who manage decisions about train movements across Scotland.
 
The union has written to the ScotRail Alliance on their behalf seeking a written guarantee that staff at Cowlair and other Scottish Control centres will remain at current levels and reminding that the extra strain on control staff in the aftermath of the Forth Bridge closure showed current staffing levels are already overstretched.
 
TSSA leader Manuel Cortes says the guarantee is now necessary to prevent his members taking strike action to highlight their belief that passenger safety on Scotland's railways will be diminished. They are also angered that ScotRail Alliance Managing Director, Phil Verster appears to be reneging on his promises not to reduce any safety critical staff.
 
"We are deeply concerned that the reassignment of our members to other duties is in fact a reduction in staffing numbers in Control will impact negatively on the safe running of the Scottish railways" says chief Cortes.
 
"We hoped Mr Verster was a man of his word when he assured us just two months ago that there would be no reduction in the number of Control staff, so it is very disappointing that we are today writing to him to seek a written guarantees that all control jobs will be safe.
 
"This is not a pay issue, this is a safety issue. Our controllers are already working flat out. The Forth Road Bridge closure exposed just how overstretched they are in this high stress environment with no slack in the system to cover sickness absence or maternity leave with train services in Scotland already running on the good will of our members.
 
"Our members report that by being just one member of staff down increases stress and fear an accident. They are therefore desperately worried that a loss of seven members of staff is courting a rail disaster.  
 
"No one should want rail controllers working fatigued or at the point of burn out so we can only conclude that the ScotRail Alliance are prioritising streamlining their spending at the expense of passenger safety.
 
"Passengers safety is not a gambling matter. Our members good will is being overstretched, their stress levels raised and our good faith in the ScotRail Alliance keeping their word has his the buffers.
 
"Strike action can only now be avoided if Mr Verster gives immediate written assurances that control staff numbers will not be reduced."

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