Appearing at the Transport Select Committee this morning, Wednesday, TSSA said questions about how long the rail dispute would last needed to be put to government, exposing their role in meddling with offers and blocking negotiations. TSSA also praised the “backbone” of low-paid rail workers and their determination to stand up against pay restraint and job insecurity.
The cross-party session heard from TSSA, RMT and Aslef in a trade union panel giving evidence on the rail dispute, followed by a panel of employers. The Rail Minister is due before the Committee next week.
In response to a question about how long trade unions could sustain the dispute, TSSA Interim General Secretary Frank Ward replied: “Respectfully, I would probably turn the question on its head and ask how long do you think the DfT (Department for Transport) can afford to financially sustain the losses that the train operating companies in particular will be incurring as a consequence of this, which they are contractually obliged to do given their hand in actually managing these disputes?”
On the impact on workers, Frank continued: “Our members seem to have the backbone to continue with this for a long time if necessary. We’ve had some members out on as many as nine days strike, so they are suffering in their pocket and some of them are low paid workers.
“We hear a lot about train drivers’ salaries and some managers’ salaries. The brunt of the changes which are being brought into this industry are going to force down on the lower paid workers. The booking offices that are going to close across the country, a lot of those employees are getting paid around twenty thousand pounds. A four percent pay offer to them is less than twenty pounds a week as an increase.
“A four percent increase to someone who’s on two hundred thousand, makes a big difference to them. But twenty pounds a week isn’t going to help a lot of our members to address the financial uncertainty that they’re facing at this moment in time. But they’ve still got the backbone to stand up and say we’re not putting up with it anymore.”
Frank also explained to the Committee how the offer made by the Rail Delivery Group last December bore little resemblance to what had been discussed in talks. For example, the subject of driver only operation trains (DOO) had not been discussed in four weeks of intensive talks, yet was inserted into the written offer – described in the evidence session as “an act of deliberate sabotage by the government”.
The full session is available to watch on the Transport Select Committee website.