Rail workers’ wage increases need to be realistic as the Treasury cannot cope with salaries going up according to inflation rates, transport secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said.
“Within the rail sector we have to maintain wage restraint because we’ve already spent £16bn just keeping it going,” Trevelyan told the transport select committee earlier today.
“So it has to be a realistic pay landing and I hope that will be possible in the months ahead.”
Unions lambasted the secretary’s comment.
Aslef told City A.M. it wasn’t workers’ fault that inflation rates had soared to 10.1 per cent while TSSA’s general secretary Manuel Cortes said rail staff shouldn’t “foot the bill for the pandemic or the government’s crashing of the economy.”
City A.M. has approached the unions Unite and RMT for comment.
Trevelyan’s remarks were made hours after the RMT announced a fresh wave of strikes for November as part of its long-standing dispute with train operators over jobs, salaries and working conditions.
Network Rail workers will walk out on 3,5 and 7 November, while London Underground and Overground staff will strike on 3 November as part of a separate dispute. RMT workers at 14 train operating companies will also walk out on 3 and 5 November.
Trevelyan also reiterated that the government was pressing ahead with ensuring minimum service levels (MSL) during transport strikes.
She told MPs the legislation would come forward imminently as it was “not acceptable” to stop children from going to school or commuters getting into work.
“I’m a respecter and supporter of unions to do a good job for their members, but not to the detriment of those they serve,” she added.
“Bringing in the MSL legislation will be a tool available if there is total inability to move forwards between the various parties, to ensure, as it says on the tin, minimum service levels, so that the passenger, the customer, can continue to get about.”
Unlike her predecessor Grant Shapps, Trevelyan has developed a more amicable relation with unions as she met with representatives days after taking the job.
“I am serious in demanding modernisation but I also understand the reality,” the secretary added today.
Meanwhile, Trevelyan announced that the creation of Great British Railways (GBR) would be delayed to the next parliamentary session, as the energy crisis has taken over the government’s agenda.
“The challenges of things like the energy legislation we’ve got to bring in and various others has meant that we have lost the opportunity to have that in this third session,” she told committee members.
The public body, originally due to begin operating in early 2024, will take over Network Rail’s role and issue contracts to run trains.
Nonetheless, the secretary said she would instead pitch for a “narrow bill” to be discussed this parliamentary season.
The so-called “narrow” transport bill would include legislation on e-scooters as well as expanding the Civil Aviation Authority’s powers to protect consumers from delays and cancellations.
Trade body Rail Partners aired its frustration at the decision, saying it was “disappointing.”
“It is critical there is not a long hiatus and there are immediate steps that can be taken now, such as switching on revenue incentives in National Rail contracts and feeding back to the market on passenger service contracts development, which can accelerate growth and underpin a reinvigorated public-private partnership,” chief executive Andy Bagnall said.