Manuel Cortes

Manuel Cortes

Manuel Cortes, is General Secretary of TSSA , the union for people in transport and travel. He is a prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and last year he initiated the call to the parliamentary Labour Party for Corbyn's name to be included on the leadership ballot. In the EU referendum he campaigned to Remain for a reformed. fairer Europe alongside Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. He is now calling for a progressive Brexit with publicly funded  building programmes prioritised and neo-liberal orthodoxies abandoned as the route to restructuring and rebalancing Britain's economy in favour of the many not the few.

Manuel Cortes

Manuel Cortes

Manuel Cortes

TSSA Welcomes Snap Election

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Do not be misled by those who tell you this election is about the choice between Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn as our Prime Minister. It is far important than that. We have been handed the opportunity today to save Britain from the devastating consequences of the Tory desire to drive Britain over the Brexit cliff.    

Even Theresa May admits she was reluctant  to set a June 8 date. And she has reason to be cautious. The British electorate will relish the opportunity to make a real ballot box choice between her continuity, austerity, hard-Brexiteering Tories who plan only to carry on slashing services, cutting wages and burning workers rights or taking back control for a Labour government pledged to defending Britain from a bad Brexit deal and committed to transforming the lives of the vast majority of British people for the better.

The next Labour government will create a National Investment Bank to invest in our people, our infrastructure and our services. It will introduce a national living wage, it will feed all our primary school children decent and free lunchtime meals, it will rebalance our taxation system in favour of the majority of workers and, it will take back control of our rail franchises from the economies of the other European countries and multi-national corporations who currently own them and return the flow of rail industry profits back to  the service of the Britain's economy.

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Waterford bus workers march in search of their missing TD

Striking Bus Éireann staff in Waterford will leave their picket line at the town's bus station tomorrow(Fri) morning to demonstrate outside the office of their local TD, John Halligan.

Mr Halligan belongs to the same Independent Alliance Group as Transport Minister, Shane Ross wo TSSA has been calling on to intervene and tell Bus Éireann to get back to the negotiating table.

Halligan visited the striking bus workers on their picket line on Tuesday where he pledged to make an intervention with  Minister Ross on their behalf and report back within 24 hours but, since then, they have heard nothing 

There are 200 Bus Éireann staff in Waterford and they will leave their picket line at The Quay and walk via the town's railway station to Mr Halligan's Military Road  Office. They will be joined at the railway station by rail workers who want to express their solidarity with their fellow transport workers. 

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We must end wage slavery

This article is one of a series on Labour Party figures, you can see the coverage here. Help WriteYou grow by supporting our powerful platform for independent, fearless and non partisan journalism here.

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In our latest article, WriteYou's Mike Joslin spoke with Manuel Cortes, the TSSA General Secretary. Manuel was recently reelected. The TSSA represents transport workers mainly in ticket offices and backroom functions. 

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The worrying truth behind the tube strikes that should concern every Londoner

TSSA’s negotiating team will return tomorrow (Wed) for further talks with London Underground (LU) at Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service ACAS to try resolve the long running Tory-made dispute about under-staffing on the Tube and and as a consequence, the serious decline in the network’s safety standards. But Sadiq Khan’s Labour administration has now been in City Hall nearly eight months and our members hopes that he would make a difference are turning to anger as LU management drag their feet.

Our negotiating team are scheduled to continue engaging in ACAS talks with LU for the reminder of this week. But, frankly, this dispute has been going on for far too long and our members patience is running wafer thin. Due to chronic staff shortages, they have been exposed to spikes in both verbal and physical abuse from irate passengers which have no place in our society - never mind the workplace.

We in TSSA will do all we can to secure a deal by the end of this week. However, the Mayor, TfL and LU must be aware that continued failure to do so on their part, will inevitably lead to more strikes in the immediate future. Let's hope common sense prevails and a deal can be reached that makes our Tube safe once again for both passengers and staff.

You see, when we say this is a dispute about safety, we mean exactly that. TSSA members safety at work is a vital issue for our union. Their own safety at work is of course, a big issue for them. But their fears for their ability to keep London’s Tube passengers travelling as safely as possible is now the prime motivator of this dispute. And the longer negotiations drag on, the more heated they are becoming at what is looking like a conspiracy by their bosses to con Tube’s passengers into believing they are traveling safely. 

Our members should be commended for their public service. Their solidarity and sense of duty towards the public they serve -at the tube's 270 stations - is exemplary. Their determination to resist these unsafe cuts is why their refusal to work overtime since the beginning of December continues to remain solid - despite the very handsome financial bribes being made to them to break their own ban. It is why our strike this month was solid and why our strike mandate remains valid.  

Londoners know that their unionised rail workers are the primary guardians of their travelling safety. Despite yesterday’s ridiculous Evening Standard headlines claiming Londoners wanted tube strikes curbed, the paper's own Ipsos Mori Poll actually revealed majority of 61pc of the 1300-plus respondents actually want railworkers to retain their right to strike - without further limits being imposed.

Transport Focus’s own annual Passenger Survey published today showed overall satisfaction with rail journeys continues to decline again this year.  Value for money and failing punctuality are passengers biggest complaints nationwide - not rail unions, nor their members, nor their right to strike.   

Mayor Sadiq Khan is right to describe the dispute as "historic." It is. And blame for it lies squarely at the doors of the Tories. In November 2015, in what would turn out to be his final Autumn statement, Chancellor George 'cuts' Osborne, announced that Transport for London (TfL) was to lose its central government operating grant, effectively making our capital the only major city on the planet to run a public transport without an operating subsidy.

The first phased withdrawal of the subsidy was immediate and Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, didn't raise a murmur of protest, let alone lead the resistance against them. Rather, he axed nearly 900 jobs, closed all the ticket offices and his re-calibrated, automated "Fit Fit the Future (FFtF)" design was quickly described by my members as “not fit for purpose”. Our union protests to Boris fell on deaf ears. Not once in his eight years did he ever meet with any union leader. He ran London for the 1% not the 99%.  

TSSA took our very real concerns to Sadiq's Mayoral Campaign Team whilst he was running for office and, to our London Assembly members. We even consulted with former Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham's team, so alarmed were we at the speed and severity of the cuts which saw standard tube safety practices abolished without due diligence. Our members believed the Tory government, aided and abetted by the Tory mayor, were abdicating their very first responsibility of government: to ensure they keep our people safe. Our members were scared for public safety. They remain scared. And with reason. 

Publicly, we were always very concerned about the loss of ticket offices and their replacement by ticket only vending machines, which have just three functions compared to the multiple functions available at a staffed ticket office and, therefore meant standards of passenger service - in management speak "the customer experience " - would plummet and place our customer service members facing soaring levels of abuse, even violence from furious passengers. 

Privately though, our (remaining) customer service members were also losing sleep because they knew safety standard to control people-congestion introduced following the Kings Cross Fire which killed 31 people, were being abandoned. Despite Tube passenger numbers have grown in millions since the 1989 disaster, the entire grade of 242 CCTV supervisors were abolished. These members skillfully monitored our Tube's 10,000 security plus cameras to protecting against congestion dangers, as well as other security threats, were abolished in one-go and the staff “redeployed” onto platforms. The Johnson Jobs Cull quite literally blinded the Tube by gouged out the eyes of it's safety protocol. 

To his credit, and to the great relief our members, Sadiq pledged to review Tube security in his Mayoral election. But even by his victory day in May, our Tube members were increasingly fearful at work. And increasingly fatigued. The use of overtime to fill the gaps had become instantly systemic. Our Tube could function only because of our members good will to fill in the roster gaps as not enough staff were now employed to keep our Tube open. The new systemic stress was further enhanced by the new system of stand-alone customer service assistants which still means staff have to be alone and isolated on platforms or gate lines and therefore highly vulnerable to abuse. The new standard-issue iPad for platform staff was kitted with an app which staff could use to report verbal or physical abuse. It had 2000 separate hits by September but, our reps reported, no member of LU staff had been reassigned to deal with the complaints. And iPads looked less smart, more stupid, when our members began to report being mugged for them!

Six months on from the so called Fit for the Future (FFtF) introduction, and with staff-morale on the floor, TSSA conducted our own Tube staff safety survey to assess the impact of it on our frontline. The responses were alarming.  82% of our members felt less safe with 13% reporting feeling dangerously unsafe, since Boris introduced FFtF working practices in April 2016. And an astonishing 79% of our members reported experiencing an increase in verbal or physical abuse. All of them had been called "c*nt" by passengers who had lost money, couldn't get change, couldn't replace their Oyster cards, had their card withheld and many had been told they were "f*cking useless" because under the changes our members had been left with no ability to remedy problems with ticket machines. Our members sleep patterns were disrupted, they were fearful, their work and life balance was out of kilter and they felt poorly-led and un-listened to.  

They were also disappointed that months after the election of a Labour administration, no effort had been made to use Sadiq's democratic mandate on security to speedily restore safety standards to our Tube. Following the bomb scare at Greenwich North, which revealed the Boris staff cuts had left even basic evacuation produces in tatters, their disappointment turned to somewhere between impatience and fury and why feelings are their patience is now at breaking point. Our strike earlier this month was solid. Just ten trains ran at peak time. Management spin that they had kept trains running were just pathetic lies.

Sadiq has been charged with a massive-mopping up exercise on our Tube because Boris and the Tories have imposed such misguided and dangerous cuts on it. It is a dispute caused by the Tories but, it is Labour who must provide the solutions. Our Labour Party must stand up for public transport in London.  Another round of Tory cuts are imminent. Labour needs to lead the campaign against them. Labour must pledge to restore TfL's operating grant within the first 100 days of being next in government. But it falls to to Sadiq lead the reconstruction of relationships between the city's  transport leaders and a Tube workforce which strongly feels their protection and, the protection of their passengers. has been disregarded at the highest levels. Sadiq must use his democratic mandate to intervene in the dispute. He must tell LU to pull their finger out and put back more staff to make our Tube safe once again. LU knows what is needed on the table by Friday to get a deal. If they fail, Sadiq will have to deal with the consequences. Our members are already angry as they believe he is turning a deaf ear to their heartfelt pleas to make our Tube safe once again.

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Theresa May is pandering to the loony right

Theresa May has finally let let her Brexit cat exit the bag but there's no surprise in finding her pandering to the loony right among her MPs who carry long outdated romantic conceptions about trade and markets that have no foundation in the modern world.  
 
Make no mistake, today's speech signals the Tories have no intention of taking back control of our economy in Britain's public interest. But they are handing it over to be run in the interests of corporations and big money. 
 
Indeed, just today, May's government has sanctioned the Japanese Company Mitsui buying a 40pc stake in the Greater Anglia rail operating franchise from Holland. Taking back control for the benefit of the Japanese economy may work for the City's 1pc, but it doesn't give Britain's rail passengers and taxpayers more control over their own lives - as she promised she'd do when she stood on the streets of Downing Street last June.
 
She may be leader of the Tory Party, but she is an unelected Prime Minister with no mandate to carry out Brexit negotiations on behalf of Britain's citizens. And we must be deeply concerned that   UKIP leader, Paul Nutgall, has said the speech did sound like a UKIP one. To quote May's former boss David Cameron, the Tory party now appears to be dancing to the tune of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists. We urgently need a government that puts Britain's people's needs before the profits of multinationals
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Where Next For Labour? Downing Street

The Labour Party has always been and continues to be a broad church.

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A People's Brexit will power Labour into Downing Street

It was John Maynard Keynes who said, “When the facts change, I change my mind.”

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Jeremy is not a marmite politician - he's much more important than that

This Labour leadership battle is not about Jeremy Corbyn.

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Labour needs to unite behind Jeremy to beat the Tories and save the railways

In the face of Tory Strife, TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes calls for Labour Party and Labour Movement unity to ensure labour wins power.

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Jeremy Corbyn's outstanding leadership on transport policy will mean a better deal for Britain's passengers

Well you've got to hand it to Jeremy Corbyn, he knows what it's like to travel on public transport in Britain 2016. Anyone who's seen the picture of him today sitting on the floor of an overcrowded London to Newcastle train will know what I'm talking about. 

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