Rail union TSSA is putting several train operating companies on notice for more industrial action in the new year by re-balloting thousands of members along new lines aimed at ending government efforts to block progress towards a deal in the ongoing national rail dispute.
For the first time in the long-running dispute the union will have the opportunity to ballot different groups of members separately to maximise industrial strength and turnout, reflecting the feeling across different groups fighting for better pay, job security and conditions.
*The companies involved are Avanti West Coast, c2c, East Midlands Railway, Southeastern, TransPennine Express, CrossCountry, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Northern.
The new strategy is a result of the offer tabled by the Rail Delivery Group (on behalf of the train companies) at the beginning of December in which there was an offer made only for station grades staff (those working in ticket offices, customer facing roles, on gate lines in stations, as well as revenue protection and train despatch roles).
Out of the blue this proposed major reforms which had not previously been on the table. At the same time there was no offer at all for Controllers or managers – a clear attempt to divide TSSA membership.
The union has therefore decided to suspend the current ballots which were due to conclude this week in order to further challenge employers and the government. Official letters are being sent to the train companies explaining the intention to begin a new balloting process.
Last week thousands of TSSA members voted overwhelmingly to accept an offer from Network Rail (General Grades, Bands 5-8 & equivalent and Controllers) worth up to 11 per cent in pay, with other benefits, plus job security and terms and conditions guarantees.
However, the union has had no comparable offer from the train companies and has decided to take the new ballot action to redefine the dispute and push towards a settlement.
Commenting, TSSA Interim General Frank Ward said: “We are now moving into a new phase of this dispute because we are simply not prepared to accept government interference which is blocking the train companies from coming to the table with a deal which meets our members’ aspirations.
“The government and employers have redefined the dispute, trying to divide our membership, and we will respond in kind by balloting in new a way that highlights the strength of feeling among members in different grades and groups on the railway.
“Balloting members in distinct groups will more accurately reflect the nature of this dispute and will also provide the flexibility to call different groups out on strike on different days, maximising our industrial strength.
“Having seen what is possible in Network Rail there’s no hiding place for Tory Ministers who are blocking a reasonable deal and crippling our railways.
“Over the past six months and more our brilliant members have stood together with strength and determination. That remains the case, with our union at the forefront of this battle not only for jobs but the very future of our vital rail network which so many people rely on.
“Our Christmas message to government is a solution can be found and found quickly. If not, we face many more months of industrial action stretching well into the new year.”