A trade union has warned the Government to ‘butt out’ of pay talks with Southeastern train staff.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association’s (TSSA) general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was ‘meddling with menace’ in the annual pay talks with the train operating company.
He added the Minister was imposing a pay cut rather than pay rise on the workforce because the company is in its last year of the franchise.
Southeastern runs trains between Hastings, Battle, Tunbridge Wells and London’s Charing Cross station.
The TSSA has rejected Southeastern’s offer of Mr Grayling’s preferred Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 1.8 per cent pay rise plus 0.5 per cent, the union said.
The union added the offer falls short of the accepted industry standard Retail Price Index (RPI) pay award, which in January this year stood at 2.5 per cent.
Mr Cortes said: “Rail workers across the sector are becoming sick and tired of the continual incompetence of Mr Grayling. His handling of this most vital of transport sectors has made working life difficult for rail staff wherever they are.
“But at Southeastern he is meddling with menace and interfering to impose his pay cuts on a workforce that are already vulnerable because the franchise is up for renewal.
“We’ve told management to take a hike on their opening offer. And it looks like they have - all the way back to the Department for Transport to get guidance on their next offer from Mr Grayling.
“So with Southeastern having disclosed they are the ones now at the beck and call of government, my message to Mr Grayling is butt out or meet me and let’s negotiate face-to-face.
“This backroom string pulling is not on and our members, Southeastern passengers - and the economy - deserve better respect.”
A DfT spokesman said: “This accusation is baseless. The Department of Transport has at no point intervened in discussions between Southeastern and the TSSA.”
The DfT added that it wanted to see the rail industry adopt CPI as its measure of inflation, saying rail travel would become more affordable for passengers.
Mr Grayling has written to the rail industry and the unions, asking for their help to move rail to the Consumer Price Index, the DfT said.
In other news: