Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Trades Union Congress (IT 164)

A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT

1. INTRODUCTION

  The TUC welcomes the White Paper A New Deal for Transport as marking a historic turning point in UK transport policy. UK transport policy has lacked strategic thinking and adequate investment for far too long. The transport White Paper promises a fully co-ordinated transport policy which will benefit the travelling public, the economy and the environment. This must be a priority for early legislation.

  The TUC sees an effective transport policy as crucial to national, regional, local and personal development. Such a policy must be based on:

    —  economic development within all parts of the nation;

    —  environmental objectives;

    —  more efficient use of scarce resources;

    —  the needs of rural areas;

    —  the enhancement of town and city centres;

    —  the promotion of social inclusion;

    —  the highest standards of safety and customer service;

    —  recognition of the worth of the public sector as well as the private sector;

    —  highly trained and well-motivated workforce.

  The TUC believes that A New Deal for Transport scores highly when judged against these criteria. The effects of the proposals in the White Paper are likely to be far-reaching and to further significantly the Government's commitment to create a better and more integrated transport system.

  The rest of this paper will concentrate on the likely obstacles to implementation. However, the following comments should be considered in the light of the TUC's firm commitment to an integrated transport policy and our support for the New Deal For Transport White Paper.

2. LOCAL TRANSPORT PLANS AND REGIONAL TRANSPORT PLANS

  The TUC welcomes the enhanced role for local authorities announced in the White Paper. The power to devise and implement comprehensive Local Transport Plans has great potential to help local authorities to improve and to integrate transport provision in their areas. This emphasis on local action and local consultation will also support the aim of improving local democracy outlined in the Modern Local Government White Paper by making council decisions more important to local people and to local businesses.

  It is vital, however, that local authorities are given sufficient financial freedom to ensure that the measures proposed in A New Deal for Transport can be properly funded. The TUC has stressed its concerns about the tensions between the new roles and powers planned for local authorities and the constraints on local government finances in our response to the DETR Green Paper and in our submission to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee Local Government Finance Inquiry.

  Given the growing importance of strategic thinking at a regional level and the tendency of transport issues to extend beyond local authority boundaries, there is also a strong case for replicating the local transport plan arrangements by the introduction of regional transport plans. A form of regional transport authority will be needed to implement this.

  If the public are to be persuaded to make greater use of public transport then they will need to have a sophisticated mechanism for delivering feedback to the providers. New consumer bodies with ombudsman powers will be needed at both local and regional levels.

3. BUS TRAVEL

  The TUC sees an urgent need for action to counter the depredations of bus deregulation and to give high quality bus services a central role in the development of integrated local transport policies. It is strongly desirable that the proportion of journeys undertaken by bus increases even if this requires an increased use of public subsidies in order to support routes which are financially uneconomic but are strategically and socially desirable.

4. RAIL TRAVEL

  Rail privatisation was carried out with undue haste by the previous Government, leaving the network in an unstable and fragmented condition. The rail system lacks proper investment and is failing the nation in terms of customer satisfaction, reliability and service integration.

  The TUC believes that the deficiencies in the Railways Act (1993) are central to many of the problems facing the rail industry and welcomes Government plans for stronger regulation. The establishment of a statutory Strategic Rail Authority is now an urgent priority. This authority should address the following tasks, which we believe to be measures which are vital to the future success of the railway network:

    —  introduce stronger penalties for poor performance;

    —  provide a revitalised role for the British Railways Board which would facilitate its use as a vehicle for the return of any failed franchise to the public sector;


    —  guarantee network benefits including simplified, flexible and affordable fare structures and national railcards;

    —  deliver on planned investment levels;

    —  ensure the provision and quality of the national timetable with the associated passenger information systems; and

    —  ensure the co-operation of all parties in providing a national integrated network.

  The TUC is also concerned at the amount of rail property which is sold to private developers. Some recent decisions will affect the ability to develop the rail network and are contrary to the best long-term interests of the railways.

5. AVIATION

  The White Paper recognises that the integration of aviation into a seamless, intermodal transport system is desirable. The TUC is concerned, however, that the Treasury's "preferred option" of selling a 51 per cent holding in National Air Traffic Control Services will damage the capacity for aviation to be integrated into the Government's vision for the future of transport. Previous transport privatisation has been characterised by major staff reductions, raising concerns about the effect on safety.

  Effective air traffic control is vital for both the efficiency and the safety of air transport. Previous Government examinations of National Air Traffic Control concluded that it was not suitable for privatisation. The TUC therefore hopes that the current consultation process on Public Private Partnerships for NATs will fully consider alternative methods for raising investment capital, looking particularly at the methods used in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

6. SHIPPING

  The TUC welcomes the stress in the White Paper on the importance and the potential of shipping. However, the British shipping industry is now in such a serious condition that urgent measures are needed to ensure its survival. In the past 20 years the number of UK owned and registered vessels (500 gt and above) has fallen from 1,143 to just 231. Over the same period, the number of seafarers employed in the British shipping industry has fallen from more than 80,000 to less than 20,000. The annual intake of cadets is around 40 per cent of the 1,300 needed.

  In August 1998, a major British shipping employer announced that it would be making 330 UK ratings redundant and replacing them with Filipino seafarers. This case illustrates the acute nature of the problems now faced by shipping.

  Maritime safety is also highly dependent upon specialist skills and experience. The serious shortfalls in officer recruitment have created a growing deficit in British maritime expertise. The implications for the safe operation of ships and support services required for safe navigation are profound. The White Paper makes a series of important proposals about safety. The dialogue needs to be extended to address the crucial issue of UK maritime skills and experience.

7. ROAD FREIGHT TRANSPORT

  The TUC recognises the general reasoning behind the Government's aim of decreasing the proportion of freight carried by road and supports the development of alternative modes of freight transport. This modal shift would be particularly suited to the transportation of bulk freight. However, policy will need to continue to recognise the practical limitations of rail and marine transport. For instance, national food retailer chains would find it difficult to develop an alternative to the current "multi-drop" system.

  The TUC strongly supports the proposals to promote higher safety and environmental standards in the road haulage industry. A strategy for sustainable freight transport must be underpinned by the proper regulation of road freight drivers hours. Excessive working hours in the transport industry inevitably lead to high levels of fatigue, accidents, ill-health and detrimental social effects for drivers.

  As many drivers currently rely on working long hours in order to maintain their earnings, we must attempt the dual task of reducing hours and safeguarding earnings. In a recent submission to the DTI, the TUC argued that the Drivers' Hours Regulations should be brought into line with the working time directive and that own-account drivers should be covered by the legislation. If own-account drivers are treated differently, then employers may be tempted to outsource to avoid the legislation. This would result in a further loss of employment in the industry as well as the loss of the potential benefits to road transport safety and to health.

8. CAR TRAFFIC

  We recognise very clearly that an integrated transport policy must involve a shift in emphasis away from the current reliance on road transport. The guiding principle in implementing the shift should be the extension of choice for motorists by making public transport more attractive. Public transport needs to become of sufficient quality and quantity that it can ensure widespread use by motorists and non-motorists alike.

  When measures are being designed to make care travel less attractive, they should be sensitive enough to take account of the availability of alternatives to car travel. It would be reasonable to expect motorists to use public transport more often where good networks exist, it would not be reasonable to apply disincentives to, for example, shift workers who must travel at times when public transport is not operating. Conversely, public transport provision will need to become more sensitive to the pattern of demand so that choice is extended. This will rest largely on the integration of transport timetables and modes at major interchanges in order to make public transport more user-friendly. However, the number of hours in the day when public transport is available may also need to be extended. This may mean that more work has to be undertaken during unsocial hours by public transport staff and would thus need to be subject to negotiation and consultation with employees and their trade unions.

  The degree to which measures are sensitive to the availability of alternatives and the extent to which genuine alternatives are available are likely to be the two key factors in deciding whether measures to shift the emphasis away from car use will succeed when evaluated in terms of efficiency, fairness and popularity.

9. TRANSPORT SAFETY

  The TUC acknowledges that there may be cross-fertilisation benefits to be gained from the formation of a single independent safety authority. There is also concern, however, that there is some potential for the dilution of the specialist expertise required in each sector. This could be of particular importance for shipping, given both the international nature of the industry and the ease with which shipowners can transfer their ships to different regimes. The review of the transport safety regime should examine such concerns and must ensure that bodies charges with overseeing transport safety are properly funded.

10. ADDRESSING THE WORKFORCE ISSUES: A NECESSARY CONDITION FOR SUCCESS

  It is now clearly recognised that the most successful organisations gain advantages from building high-trust partnership relationships with their employees. A highly-motivated and highly-trained workforce, who are informed and consulted about business decisions and who have some control over their own work organisation, can prove to be a remarkable source of innovation. Therefore, leading-edge organisations really do value their employees as their greatest asset.

  In order to maximise the benefits of an integrated transport policy it will thus be necessary to pay due attention to encouraging personnel management best practice. There are a number of cases in the transport industry which are currently a long way from achieving this necessary condition for success. In the maritime sector, the growing use of flags of convenience has led to cases of appalling safety and labour practices in the merchant shipping industry. The forthcoming DETR document on shipping policy represents an opportunity to address this difficult problem.

  Similarly, the deregulation of the bus industry has led to real drops in bus workers' earnings. The demotivational effects of pay cutting have been clearly outlined by organisational psychologists since the 1950s. Again, the forthcoming DETR document is a chance to address this perverse outcome of the policies of the previous Government.

  Reducing road freight transportation also has implications for employment. The TUC believes that the development of the integrated transport policy should take account of the likely employment effects, in order to support the Government's employment aims and to minimise any detrimental motivational, social and economic effects caused by the shift of modal emphasis.

  The use of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for transport projects which involve staff presents a particular challenge for achieving personnel best practice.

  There is a real danger that the use of PFI will establish a new employment sector where workers are paid less and have inferior terms and conditions than those in comparable jobs who are directly employed in the public sector. There is a particular risk of this happening when a PFI project recruits a new group of employees rather than transferring in existing public sector employees. The existence of the PFI sector within the transport industry may also cause the bidding down of terms and conditions of public sector employees in the industry. This would preclude the formation of the optimal high-trust partnership relationships. Rather, it would result in lower morale and would lead to lower standards of service.

  The simplest and most effective way of preventing this outcome would be for Parliament to adopt a new Fair Wages Resolution which was consistent with the requirements of the EU procurement directives. This would establish that the Government intends to set an example of good employment practice and would ensure that private sector contractors entering into PFI projects are aware that they must compete by managing resources effectively rather than by wage cutting.

  Second, the Government should take steps to strengthen the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE) in order to protect public service employees who transfer to PFI schemes or from PFI schemes to the directly employed sector.

  The Government should undertake the following reforms as a matter of urgency:

    —  Revise the definition of a transfer in TUPE 1981 to ensure that the rights of workers are protected in all cases of out sourcing of public services, including PFI.

    —  Furthermore, the Government should take up the options in the new Acquired Rights Directive to extend TUPE 1981 to protect pension rights.

  Third, the new Treasury guidelines for PFI include the right for staff to be consulted. Although these guidelines will not mirror the full protection which would be provided by a Fair Wages Resolution or by the extension of TUPE, they are a very welcome step in the right direction. Consequently the TUC looks forward to early discussions with the DETR about their application.

11. THE URGENT NEED FOR ACTION

  The TUC regards the New Deal for Transport programme as a vital contribution towards our nation's progress. We are therefore very concerned about the speculation that a full-scale Transport Bill may not be included in this year's Queen's Speech, delaying the implementation of the measures outlined in the White Paper until at least the summer of 2000.

  Taking the New Deal for Transport programme forward is of the utmost importance in maximising economic growth, protecting the environment, extending citizen's choice and for building an inclusive society. The TUC therefore urges the Government to include a comprehensive Transport Bill in next year's programme of legislation.


 
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