NEWS.CATEGORY: Industrial

TSSA demands government action over cost-of-living crisis

Manuel cortes in black t shirt and jacked at the rostrum at TSSA Conference 2022. The background is purple and he has the words "liberte egalite TSSA" on his t-shirt in blue, white and red.

Transport and travel union TSSA has passed an emergency motion on the cost of living at its annual conference calling on the government to ‘address the emerging crisis as a priority’ and giving the go-ahead for coordinated strike action across the railways if pay and job security issues are not resolved.

Delegates meeting at the union’s Annual Conference in Sheffield backed the text which slams the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, for ‘failure to go anywhere near dealing with the cost-of-living crisis'.

The motion stated that the union had been ‘left dismayed as the Chancellor and his privileged colleagues have repeatedly failed to understand the extent of the crisis facing the average citizen never mind those on low incomes’.

It called on the government to ‘change direction and act to reduce energy bills and boost pay, benefits and pensions’ because ‘it is wholly unacceptable for families to be forced to make choices between eating and heating’.

TSSA is demanding that rail industry employers deliver pay increases at least in line with RPI. The union is also consulting Reps about a possible national ballot for industrial action at Network Rail and train operating companies in England over pay, terms and conditions, and job security.

And the motion gives a clear mandate for industrial action if no progress is made on the key issues of pay and job security, saying: ‘[conference] supports the EC in any actions it determines are appropriate to deliver upon this demand. If this results in industrial action our union will seek to coordinate this with sister unions and other workers taking action to fight the Tories cost of living crisis.’

Moving the motion, TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes warned: “If there is even the threat of compulsory redundancies, we will be balloting for strike action and trains will come to a halt!”

After the motion was passed unanimously by conference, Manuel commented: “I’m delighted to see our Conference taking the fight to the government on this most pressing matter.

“It’s outrageous that the Tories have chosen to look the other way on the cost of living. What kind of society are we in the 21st century when people are having to make a choice between heating and eating?

“There is no need for this, we are one of the richest economies in the world and to see people struggling to meet the cost of everyday living stains us as a country.

“We must all stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of such deliberately negligent inaction from Tory Ministers who simply have no answers to this accelerating crisis.

“We will be balloting for strike action if there is the threat of compulsory redundancies on our railways, if we do not get pay increases that match the cost of living and if employers use the economic downturn as another opportunity to change our members’ terms and conditions without negotiations.

“Make no mistake, trains will be coming to a halt in this country very soon if our members’ interests are not protected going forward.”  

The full text of the motion is reproduced below -

Composite Em2 & Em4 Cost of Living Crisis 

That this Conference condemns the Chancellor's Spring Statement for its failure to go anywhere near dealing with the cost of living and energy cost crisis, including the state's own workforce who face further years of real terms cuts in pay.  

Conference notes with deep concern that families are facing a real cost of living crisis as inflation, national insurance hikes and huge increases in energy bills far outstrip meagre increases in pay, benefits and pensions. The Chancellor failed to remove the unfair new National Insurance levy the Government introduced that assists wealthier homeowners facing social care bills the most, so once again ordinary working people are being forced to bail out the rich. He also withdrew benefits for those already on the breadline for whom escalating energy and food costs represent a particularly large challenge leaving low-income earners well behind.  

The inflation spike substantially stems from the Bank of England and other central bank injections of money into propping up the stock exchange, big business, and wealthy asset owners during the pandemic. This occurred well before the recent problems stemming from the appalling Russian invasion of Ukraine and the West's sanctions. It is ordinary working people who will pay the price through cuts to their living standards as prices leap ahead of earnings.  

Conference calls on our Governments to address the emerging crisis as a priority. Conference notes that energy bills in Britain went up by 54% in April, leaving families facing an average annual bill of £2,000. Conference further notes with increasing alarm that these bills are set to rise again in October. Meanwhile energy producers are enjoying enormous profits for no extra cost reasons and the Chancellor failed to implement a windfall tax on energy companies that could have been used to reduce VAT on energy bills or make bigger direct bill reductions for lower and medium income households.  

In contrast, wages are rising by a maximum of 5.2% this year according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), and benefits and pensions are going up by just 3.1%. Families are facing a huge squeeze on their incomes with those on the minimum wage expected to be £200 a year worse off in real terms, after the 6.6% rise in the national living wage failed to keep up with inflation and effectively squeezed incomes further. The six million families, who use universal credit to support their incomes, face a £13 per month cut to their incomes once inflation is taken into account and this is on top of the removal of the £20 uplift in Universal Credit last autumn.  

The government’s decision to break the triple lock and increase the state pension by CPI rather than earnings will cost those on the full new state pension £487 a year and those on the full basic state pension £373 a year.  

The Governor of the Bank of England has called this a ‘historic shock’ to living standards and those families who are least able to cope are at the sharp end of the consequences whilst the Chancellor appears distracted by the intricacies of his family’s tax affairs. 

Conference believes that a key role of government is to help citizens collectively manage such challenges but has been left dismayed as the Chancellor and his privileged colleagues have repeatedly failed to understand the extent of the crisis facing the average citizen never mind those on low incomes. 

The six-month extension to the household emergency support fund delivered through local authorities, which was set to close at the end of March, is little more than applying a band aid to a haemorrhage. 

The Chancellor is determined to reject all calls to increase benefits or pensions in any way that would make a real difference and according to the Resolution Foundation the Chancellors failure to support families through the cost-of-living crisis today, and to cut their taxes in the future, means that absolute poverty is expected to rise by 1.3 million people next year, including 500,000 children.  

Conference notes that our union is addressing the cost-of-living crisis by demanding that rail industry employers deliver pay increases at least in line with RPI and supports the EC in any actions it determines are appropriate to deliver upon this demand. If this results in industrial action our union will seek to coordinate this with sister unions and other workers taking action to fight the Tories cost of living crisis. 

Conference notes that on 27 April 2022, the Trussell Trust charity which provides food parcels reported that it supplied 2.1 million parcels in the last year, an increase of 14%, with the situation getting worse. Conference instructs the EC to make a donation to the Trussell Trust.

Conference notes that the RMT has commenced balloting from April 26 and closes on May 24. Conference also notes that Network Rail representatives have voted overwhelmingly to support a ballot for industrial action. Conference therefore instructs the EC to authorise a ballot where this has been endorsed by our TSSA representative without any unnecessary delay and to seek to coordinate action on a common timeframe.

Conference believes that it is wholly unacceptable for families to be forced to make choices between eating and heating and demands that government steps up to the plate and starts to serve the best interests of ordinary working families and pensioners. 

Conference therefore supports the TUC campaign for the Chancellor to deliver an emergency budget which will boost wages by increasing the minimum wage, Universal Credit and benefits.  

Conference also supports the Labour Party’s call for a windfall tax on energy profits to fund grants designed to specifically help with the cost of energy. Conference further believes that serious government investment in the green energy sector and in nationwide home refurbishments would not only help to address long term energy costs but also help tackle the climate crisis and regenerate many communities. We currently face the worst living standards crisis in many generations and millions of families are at breaking point. This crisis is as much a result of political decisions as global economic circumstances. Helping citizens and communities to collectively manage the challenges requires Government to change direction and act to reduce energy bills and boost pay, benefits and pensions.  

Conference calls on the EC to raise these issues with the TUC and Labour Party and to seek their agreement to mount a general campaign for greater assistance to low and middle-income earners, also those on benefit in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, and the Chancellor's failure to act, based around demands for:  

* a windfall tax on the energy producers’ current profits to reduce energy bills;  

* removal of the new social care levy on national insurance and ensuring that instead dividends and capital gains are brought into and subject to the same income taxes as earnings, and  

* the uprating of benefits in line with higher cost of inflation affecting the poorest in our society. 

* Conference welcomes the TUC's calling of a national demonstration on June 18th on the theme of "Britain Deserves a Pay Rise" as an important first step in this direction and calls on the EC to mobilise TSSA members in support of this demonstration. 

* Conference believes it is vital for the union to do more to support low-paid members and encourage workers on low income into membership. 

* Conference notes that, at the 2021 TSSA Annual Conference, the EC initially proposed a Rule Alteration to raise the Band 2 subs threshold which would have reduced the subs for members earning between £20,000 and £24,000 pa but withdrew this motion to save time.  

* Conference instructs the EC to re-present this motion for debate at the 2023 Annual Conference.'

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