TUC Turns heat on Boris& Team

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The TUC is calling on the government to stop inflaming the dispute by refusing to aid negotiations, insisting on imposing cuts, and threatening to revoke workers’ legal rights…reports Asian Lite News

The Trade Union Congress (TUC), Britain’s largest workers’ forum, is calling on the Westminster government to adopt a positive role in the rail dispute instead of “inflaming tensions” and threatening to revoke workers’ legal rights.

The RMT workers are on three-day strike this week. Rail workers in Wales have reached agreements with rail operators on pay and job protections. And in Scotland there is meaningful negotiation taking place. But the TUC says this opportunity has been blocked for other rail workers by ministers in Westminster, who insist on imposing cuts rather than negotiating a future for rail that benefits both rail travellers and staff.

And last week the Transport Minister Grant Shapps undermined a negotiated outcome by threatening to change the law so that employers can draft in agency workers in place of their workforce during industrial action – a proposal reminiscent of the action taken by P&O.

Rail workers have already had their pay frozen for the last two years, at a time when most other workers got nominal pay rises. And many of the rail workers who will be taking industrial action are on low pay, so will be hit particularly hard by real terms pay losses worth thousands of pounds.

The TUC is calling on the government to stop inflaming the dispute by refusing to aid negotiations, insisting on imposing cuts, and threatening to revoke workers’ legal rights.

“The government has the power to help end this dispute,” said TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. “But rather than working in good faith to find a negotiated settlement, ministers are inflaming tensions and trying to pitch worker against worker. Instead of threatening to do a P&O on these workers and rip up their rights, ministers should be getting people around the table to help agree a fair deal.”

Outlining why workers are taking action, Frances added: “Nobody takes strike action lightly. But rail staff have been left with no other option. Many rail staff who will be hit hardest – such as caterers and cleaners – are on low and average earnings. It’s insulting to ask them to take yet another real-terms pay cut when rail companies took £500 million in profits during the pandemic. If these cuts go ahead thousands of safety-critical and frontline jobs will be lost, with train services at risk too. We need a better vison for the future of rail than commuters packed on unsafe trains like sardines.”

Under government pressure to cut spending, Network Rail plans to cut annual expenditure by £100 million, mainly through the loss of 2,500 rail maintenance jobs. RMT analysis of Network Rail data finds that this will lead to 670,000 fewer hours of maintenance work annually. Network Rail responsibilities include track maintenance – essential to avoiding accidents fatal like Hatfield, which was the result of the metal tracks fatiguing. Network Rail is also responsible for maintaining signals to ensure trains are on time and prevent collisions, for the electricity supply to the network, and for the safe upkeep of buildings including public spaces like the UK’s largest rail stations.

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