TSSA’s annual conference has backed a motion to rebuild public transport while avoiding job losses in the wake of the Covid pandemic.
Delegates meeting in Birmingham and online because of the pandemic - backed the formal statement on Covid and Transport Workers which criticises the Government for using the crisis of the past eighteen months as ‘an opportunity to slim down the rail industry’.
It also praised the ‘hard work and dedication of railway workers’ during the pandemic and called on the Labour Party to do more ‘to oppose this assault on working people’.
The full motion reads: ‘That this Conference believes that the hard work and dedication of railway workers in keeping our country’s rail network operating during the current Covid pandemic deserves real recognition alongside those of all the other public sector workers who are maintaining Britain’s vital public services.
‘Rail workers have kept the rail network open to take key workers to their jobs and keep our food and other critical supplies flowing during this unprecedented time. These efforts deserve all our thanks and Conference instructs the EC to express its gratitude to all key workers, to campaign for decent pay rises for them, and to submit evidence to the People's Covid Inquiry.
‘Conference fully supports the efforts of the General Secretary working with industry leaders during the Covid crisis.
‘Conference urges the EC to fight any knee-jerk job losses as the country slowly moves into recovery. Our industries will need rebuilding and people will be needed on the ground to do this. Jobs should not be sacrificed in a crisis not of our making and the Government should not see this as an opportunity to slim down the rail industry so it can be more attractively handed back to the privateers.
‘Conference notes that the Government’s review of the rail sector, led by Keith Williams of the privatised Royal Mail and previously British Airways, contains statements about using the present crisis to seek “opportunities for efficiencies” and that “These include the elimination of duplication and workplace reform.”, which are clear references to attack transport workers’ jobs, pay and pensions. The Department for Transport is now advertising for a newly created position titled “Director, Rail Pensions and Workforce Reform”, which is effectively a directorship for confronting the unions, TSSA included.
‘Conference notes that from the beginning of the Covid crisis the Association and other unions have been essential in protecting the rights of workers. Through our actions the Association has been able to protect pay, jobs and safety where we are best organised. Despite this, the Government’s agenda has clearly been to protect the wealth of the wealthiest in society at the expense of the rest of us. It is clear that the gap between rich and poor has widened, the risks to the lowest paid essential workers has been exposed as far greater, the impact of Covid on BAME workers demonstrated as much greater and gains in equality of women in the workplace dramatically reversed.
‘Conference recognises that the balance of the Tory Government strategy has been to protect the interests of profit for the few rather than investing in the essential workers that have so clearly demonstrated their value through the Covid crisis. Conference notes with alarm that the effect of the drive to reduce costs is being targeted in the rail industry, including Network Rail, to:
‘(a) attempt to introduce a pay freeze;
‘(b) reduce the focus on safety which has impacted on workforce fatalities;
‘(c) establish headcount caps without consultation and in contradiction of consulted organisation;
‘(d) reduce the infrastructure renewal programme without no apparent justification for the consequence of the safe operation of the infrastructure, and
‘(e) threaten job security from Government attempts to bail out TOC organisations and potential reorganisation of the rail industry.
‘The EC should remain vigilant to any such attacks on jobs and to act appropriately. The Association must be prepared for a huge and sustained attack from the government and must be ready to work with our sister unions to protect jobs, conditions and safety.
‘Conference instructs the EC to build the scale of campaign necessary to reverse the trend of workers being subject to cuts whilst profits are still being made by the few.
‘Conference further instructs the EC that, when it can be established that employers have broken the law in driving through these changes, they shall be held to account accordingly.
‘Conference notes that the new Labour Party leadership has done little to oppose this assault on working people and instructs the EC to campaign to reverse this trend.’
Commenting, TSSA union boss, Manuel Cortes, said: “A raft of cuts to our rail industry are already underway - and that’s galling given the herculean work of our brave transport workers who stood on the front line against Covid to keep our country moving.
“Conference was right to back this motion because we have a Conservative Government happy to see jobs slashed across our rail industry at a time when we desperately need a meaningful recovery from this terrible pandemic - for the sake of workers and business alike.
“There can be no full return of workers to our railways and our wider public transport network unless the services are there to support this. Anything else is short-termism which would turbo charge car usage when rail is so vital in the fight to decarbonise.
“And yes, we need our Labour Party alongside in opposing this assault on working people, so that we can ensure the future of our transport industries which so many people rely on.”
*TSSA is an independent trade union for the transport and travel industries. We have thousands of members right across the UK and Ireland, working for the railways and associated companies, as well as ferries, bus services and the travel trade. TSSA secures quality pay rises, protects jobs and ensures safe workplaces.
*TSSA is supporting The Way Forward campaign for public transport