TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has accused Boris Johnson of "turning his back on talks” aimed at solving the escalating dispute across the railways this summer.
Johnson had urged the unions to ‘talk to government’ in media comments (23 May). Cortes then wrote to Johnson (24 May - see Notes) saying he was prepared to hold discussions with the Prime Minister.
However, 10 Downing Street has now responded to the union offering no prospect of direct talks, merely restating ‘the government has been clear that talks between the unions and the rail industry are vital in avoiding widespread disruption in the coming months’.
Commenting, Cortes said: “These are just hollow words from the top of government, with Johnson now clearly turning his back on talks and happy to face a summer of discontent on our railways.
“Instead of sitting down with us and seeking to solve this dispute, Johnson and his Ministers have been doing all they can to undermine any prospect of a negotiated settlement.
“While Grant Shapps and others claim there’s no money for our members, they have instructed management at Network Rail to throw endless pots of money at bribes aimed at attempting to break strikes.
“They have also floated the crazy plan to bring in temporary workers during industrial action, something which would seriously endanger safety on our railways.
“Meanwhile the Department for Transport has the cheek to give the impression that talks with our union are just beginning when they know it’s total nonsense.
“Instead of peddling untruths the government would be better served by actually getting their hands dirty in discussions to secure a proper pay deal and job security for thousands of rail workers who were heroes in the pandemic.”
The full text of the letter to Manuel Cortes from 10 Downing Street (9 June) is as follows - ‘Dear Mr Cortes
‘I am writing to thank you for your letter of 24 May to the Prime Minister, regarding discussions to avert industrial action on the railways this summer. As the Prime Minister is currently engaged in leading the UK's response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he has asked me to respond on his behalf.
‘Our railways are the backbone of Britain, connecting cities and reuniting families. As the UK builds back better from the pandemic, it is important to have railways that are fit for the future, establishing a fair deal for staff, passengers and taxpayers alike. The Government has been clear that talks between unions and the rail industry are vital in avoiding widespread disruption throughout the coming months.
‘I have passed your correspondence to the Department for Transport and asked them to provide a more comprehensive response to the points you have raised’.