TSSA is today calling on the Department for Transport to intervene and order Train Operating Companies to stand down all non-essential staff in the face of Coronavirus. TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes has criticised the actions of "callous rail bosses on six figure salaries working from home who are needlessly putting our members in harm's way."
Rail workers are being treated differently across different rail companies and there has been conflicting advice from government and companies about who should be at work, what is safe and what level of staffing is required. With rail passenger levels falling by 90%, there are multiple functions – such as ticket office and gate staff – who are not needed and whose health is being put at risk by going into work. Many others could be working from home.
Last Wednesday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons Transport Select Committee he "did not expect ticket barrier or office staff to be working at the moment." Despite this, many staff have been ordered into work.
Manuel Cortes said:
"Our union wholeheartedly agrees with what the Transport Secretary said to the Select Committee last week. All non-essential staff must be stood down immediately and also all those who can work from home, if they aren't yet, must do so now. This is about saving lives, not profits.
"Sadly, unscrupulous train bosses are putting our members needlessly in harm's way. It's time for them to move on from their Dickensian management style to one that actually values and support our rail members who aren't essential to keep trains moving.
"I am extremely proud that a significant number of our members are going into work to keep vital supplies moving and to ensure medical and other key staff get to work – whatever it takes. However, callous rail bosses on six figure salaries who are working from home are needlessly putting our members in harm's way. They should be ashamed of themselves.
"It's time for the Department for Transport to order this lot to follow the words of the Transport Secretary.
"And my message to our members is: if you are non-essential to the running of our railway at this time then please speak to our union reps.
"In the official note of the Transport Select Committee meeting of Wednesday 25 March, Grant Shapps said 'he did not expect ticket barrier or office staff to be working at the moment.'"
Sam Tarry MP questioned whether non-essential staff (such as ticket barrier staff) could be stood down to ensure the railway operated with a skeleton staff.
The Secretary of State said that ticket sales had reduced by 98% compared to last year. Given the falls in revenue, he did not expect ticket barrier or office staff to be working at the moment, but he would look further into the issue. There had already been an 84% reduction in footfall on passenger services compared to last year, before the recent measures were taken to reduce rail timetables. Passenger numbers had likely reduced further since then. Rail operators would therefore be getting close to running a skeleton staffing service.