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TransPennine rail strikes: more Manchester disruption looms as union ballots over pay and possible job losses

The ballot is being held over concerns about pay, working conditions and potential job losses and is taking place at an operator which has already seen prolonged strike action by another rail union this year.

Manchester intercity rail passengers could be in for more disruption as a trade union ballots its members over pay, working conditions and potential job losses.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) union is asking employees at TransPennine Express (TPE) for its views on strike action and industrial action short of full walk-outs in the row.

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The union is warning of a “summer of discontent” over threatened cuts on the railways and wages not keeping up with the cost of living.

TPE, which has already been involved in a prolonged industrial dispute with the RMT union this year which has seen weekend services from Manchester regularly hit by strike action, said it was disappointed by the latest ballot.

Why is the TSSA union balloting at TPE and what impact could this have in Manchester?

The union is in dispute with TPE over pay, working conditions and job security.

It is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no changes to terms and conditions without agreement, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

The ballot opens on Wednesday 29 June and closes on Wednesday 13 July.

If the members, which include ones based in Manchester stations, agree then strike action could begin before the end of July.

TPE runs a number of intercity services out of Manchester, including ones connecting the city to stations across Yorkshire and in the North East.

A separate dispute with the RMT over conductors’ pay and working conditions has already seen more than two months of strike action on Sundays and across a number of weekends, including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday.

Train operators and Network Rail are already under pressure due to the three days of the national rail strike which has been called.

The TSSA’s members are found in a number of roles, including driver managers, duty managers, duty station managers, station team leaders, conductors, customer service advisors and incident controllers as well as jobs in fleet delivery.

What has the union said?

TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “Our members at Trans Pennine Express are seeking basic fair treatment in the teeth of a crippling cost of living crisis.

“Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.

“Our demands are simple – pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.

“It’s time the government changed course. Instead of making cuts across our railway the Department for Transport should either give Trans Pennine and other companies the signal to make us a reasonable offer, or Ministers should come to the negotiating table and speak to us directly.

“The alternative is a fast-approaching summer of discontent across our rail network. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action which would bring trains to a halt.”

What has TPE said?

A spokesperson for TransPennine Express (TPE) said: “Earlier this week TransPennine Express was notified of the intention of driver members of Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) to ballot for potential industrial action.

“TPE is extremely disappointed with the news that TSSA members will be taking part in the ballot, particularly at a time when the rail industry – together with much of the nation – is working together to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are acutely aware of the cost-of-living pressures being felt by workers and families across the UK. Every business wants to support its staff and the railway is no exception.

“But, as an industry, we have to change our ways of working and improve productivity to help pay our own way – the alternative of asking taxpayers to shoulder even more of the burden after contributing an extra £16bn to the industry during Covid, or passengers to pay even higher fares when they too are feeling the pinch, simply isn’t fair.

“We want to engage and negotiate with the trade unions in a realistic way that takes into account the context of the industry’s financial position.”