New franchise agreements pledge state support for bosses
MILLIONS of pounds in taxpayers’ cash will be used to fund the Tories’ attempt to smash rail unions so that firms can impose the widespread use of driver-only operated (DOO) trains, RMT warned yesterday.
Research by the union shows that ministers are inserting new clauses in franchise agreements to allow train-operating companies to claim back any revenue lost to industrial action over the plans to get rid of guards.
This would ensure that operators make a profit of more than £1 billion over the next 20 years, according to the Railway Safety Standards Board. Southern’s contract means that the company has not lost any revenue as a result of strikes over DOO, with the bill, in the region of £60 million, set to be paid by the taxpayer, according to RMT.
The Northern Rail franchise agreement, which contains a government directive to introduce DOO, also contains a clause promising that public funds will be used “to reimburse or ameliorate net losses of the franchisee arising from industrial action (however caused and of whatever nature).”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “As with Southern, the government is inserting clauses into new franchise agreements which will mean the taxpayer will bankroll Theresa May’s war on the unions.
“It is clear that rail disputes are nothing to do with modernising our railway and everything to do with old-fashioned union-busting and cost-cutting.”
Publication of the union’s research coincided with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling claiming that he could not take Labour seriously on transport after party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would join rail workers’ picket lines.
Mr Grayling has warned that he is “considering carefully” how the government will limit strike action in the future. Labour is calling on him to commission an independent review of his decision to reject Transport for London (TfL) proposals to take over rail routes serving the capital’s suburbs after disputes between workers and train firm bosses.
A leaked letter shows that Mr Grayling once opposed devolution of suburban rail in case it put it “in the clutches of a Labour mayor.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Mr Grayling “put party politics ahead of passengers and clearly prefers to see trains run late rather than on time under Labour.”
Mr Grayling replied: “I say to him, I will not take [Mr Corbyn] seriously until I hear him condemn those strikes and tell the workers to go back to work.”
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