TSSA tells Shapps - ‘break the impasse’ over rail dispute

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps headshot photo

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has written to Grant Shapps urging him to ‘break the impasse in the rail dispute’.

The union leader took the step of writing to the Transport Secretary after two days of strike action across the railways last week and a summer of industrial unrest over jobs, pay and conditions.

TSSA believes the Conservative Transport Secretary not only has the power to intervene to find a solution but rail contracts stipulate that the Department for Transport is ultimately responsible for changes relating to rail employees.

Cortes, in his letter, asks Shapps to ‘come to the table or get out of the way and empower employers to negotiate’. He points out that Shapps has ‘not met with trade unions representing thousands of rail staff’.

Nor has there been ‘any positive intervention from you or your Department relating to the fundamental issues of pay, conditions and job security at the heart of this dispute’, he writes.

TSSA will take part in talks this week with Network Rail (NR) in an attempt to find a negotiated settlement. The union remains in dispute with NR (General Grades and Controllers) and a dozen train operating companies across England.

Commenting further Manuel Cortes said: “Last week our fantastic members up and down the country showed they are not willing to be pushed around as the government takes a sledgehammer to our rail industry and their jobs.

“We have made it clear from the start of this dispute that we do not take industrial action lightly and always look for a solution. That remains the case and we will be in talks this week at Network Rail.

“However, we were shocked to hear Shapps suggest in recent days that he advocates harsher restrictions on the right of workers to take industrial action. Let me be clear – that is no way to solve this dispute and an affront to our hard-working members who kept our country moving throughout the pandemic.

“With the new Tory Prime minister set to take office soon it’s time Shapps stepped up to the plate and addressed the issues at hand to find a resolution which meets our aspirations.”

The full text of Manuel Cortes’ letter to Grant Shapps is as follows -

‘Dear Grant Shapps,

On behalf of thousands of rail workers and passengers we’re calling on you to break the impasse in the rail dispute. Please come to the table, or get out of the way and empower employers to negotiate.

As Transport Secretary, you have the ability to intervene and resolve the dispute. In fact, it is written into rail contracts that you and your Department hold the responsibility and authority for signing off any changes to pay, conditions and job security for rail workers.

Despite this, you have not met with trade unions representing thousands of rail staff. We have not seen any positive intervention from you or your Department relating to the fundamental issues of pay, conditions and job security at the heart of this dispute.

We and our members – ordinary rail workers who work long, hard and often unsociable hours to deliver quality rail services – were shocked to see you suggesting harsher restrictions on workers’ rights last week. Where are the suggestions and efforts to address the issues in this dispute and find a resolution? Where is the offer of meeting dates?

If you are not willing or able to do this, we ask you to empower the Rail Delivery Group and train operators to negotiate with trade unions on these key issues so that we can break the impasse and move forwards.

TSSA stands ready to enter into meaningful negotiations in good faith.

We look forward to hearing from you on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Manuel Cortes’

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