UK strike breakthrough – first union agrees terms
The Transport Salaried Staff Association, the smallest of the three main trades unions involved, has agreed terms with railway employers. The move ends their members participation in the long-running national rail dispute. The move is being viewed as a step forward in the dispute, but it still leaves the two larger unions at a stalemate, and action still planned by the largest union, the RMT, later this month.
Members of the TSSA rail union have voted to accept offers made by the train companies in the long-running national rail dispute over pay, job security and conditions. According to the union, which has about 3000 members in the industry, has won an improved deal on pay, as well as commitments on job security and full consultation over any possible changes to terms and conditions. The dispute has seen strikes and industrial action on the railways since the summer of 2022.
Overwhelming majority but other unions still in dispute
An online ballot was conducted among TSSA members within the rail industry. The vote saw an overwhelming majority of eighty per cent of management grade and sixty per cent of general grade members vote to accept the offers. This was on an overall return of fifty-seven per cent of affected members voting, say the union. TSSA members work in a variety of management, stations, control, engineering, clerical, and customer service roles.
The result means TSSA will formally accept the offers and notify the train companies that ballots for continuing industrial action have been withdrawn. The union will enter into discussions with employers on the detail of implementing the principles and commitments contained in the settlement. However, the much larger train drivers union (Aslef) and the biggest of all, the RMT, are still in dispute, with the RMT due to call out its 40,000 members in March and April for a series of strikes.
Two year pay deal
The settlement does not come with an amicable handshake over the negotiating table. “This is a clear decision from our members which will end our long-running dispute”, said a TSSA spokesperson. “[However it is] something which could have happened months ago had it not been for government intransigence. The incredible resolve we have seen from our members has resulted in a significantly improved pay deal over two years, commitments for no compulsory redundancies, improved opportunities for redeployment, as well as full consultation over proposed reforms to ticket offices and any changes to terms and conditions.”
The union said it had entered into painstaking negotiations with the representative body of the employers, the Rail Delivery Group (RDG). It has secured formal offers in relation to all members in the dispute. The headline resolution is for a two year pay deal covering 2022-23 and 2023-24. This provides for a five per cent increase or a minimum increase of 1,750 pounds (about 2,085 euro) whichever is the greater in year one, and a further four per cent increase in year two. The minimum increase clause seems to be the major significant improvement on the previous best offer made by the employers.
Redundancy agreements but ticket office closures still opposed
The union nevertheless maintained its robust stance on industrial relations with the employers. “Thanks to the great commitment of our members across the train companies they have collectively won a better future and can be rightly proud of their actions in this historic dispute”, said their statement. “We will continue to hold the train companies and the government to account as we go forward because Britain needs a fully functioning rail network at the heart of our green industrial future, and as a means of rebuilding our economy in the wake of the Covid pandemic.”
To that end, the TSSA says it has won an agreement to avoid compulsory redundancies of employees within the grades directly affected by proposed workforce changes. That clause, relating to changes in working practices, runs until the end of 2024. “The grades directly affected by the workforce changes are all station-based grades, all on board grades including catering and train-crew, all administration grades, all fleet and engineering grades”, says the union. “All revenue protection and train service controller grades will be regarded as in scope for the purposes of the no compulsory redundancies commitment.” A voluntary redundancy scheme will remain in place.
TSSA continues to oppose the proposed closures of ticket offices. The passenger train operating companies involved in the scope of the new offer are – Avanti West Coast, C2C, Chiltern Railways, Cross Country, East Midlands Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway, Greater Anglia, Great Western Railway, London North Eastern Railway, Northern Trains Limited, South Eastern Railway, South Western Railway, Trans Pennine Express, West Midlands Trains.
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