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RMT confirms three-day Virgin East Coast strike action

Rail union RMT has today confirmed a “programme of strike action” on Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) over an alleged threat to jobs, working conditions and safety following an 84% majority vote.

VTEC’s RMT members will stage three 24-hour strikes from 3:00am on 19, 26 and 29 August. They are also being instructed to take “action short of strike” by not working any overtime between 27 and 29 August.

According to the union, the ongoing dispute came to a head when Virgin decided to “subject staff to a barrage of direct propaganda justifying their attempts to bulldoze through a package of cash-led measures that would decimate jobs, working conditions and threaten the safety regime that currently ensures a guard on every train”.

The union’s outspoken general secretary, Mick Cash, added: “RMT will not sit back while nearly 200 members' jobs are under threat and while conditions and safety are put at risk by a franchise which is clearly in financial trouble.

“RMT is aware that VTEC management are putting out regular propaganda messages to their employees, to justify the company’s attempts to attack job security, terms and conditions of employment and current working practices. In response to company propaganda, RMT’s view is clear.

“Long-standing agreements between our two organisations dictate that the company must negotiate with RMT, as a recognised trade union to those agreements, yet the company say these changes are a consultative process. That is simply not true. Any changes to staff terms and conditions are negotiable matters.”

David Horne, managing director for Virgin Trains on the east coast, had recently urged RMT members to return to talks.

“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during any action, we urge the RMT not to call a strike which will cost its members pay for no reason, and to rejoin us around the negotiating table,” he said.

The union’s members have recently suspended a strike mid-action across Southern services in the capital, but so far remain strong in an ongoing Eurostar three-day strike – although this could still be salvaged as a result of ongoing talks with the company’s management happening today.


Tonyp   12/08/2016 at 13:25

It seems that Mr Cash is determned to bring our railways to it's knees. I smell political interference here as it is known that his real motivation is the re-nationalisation of the railway. The safety agenda he espouses he thinks will appeal to the passenger support when it is well overdone. Returning to nationalisation is a backward step by over sheltering against competition; making an apparent easy life for his members; going back to the dour service formerly supplied by BR.

Dr P.N. Jarvis   12/08/2016 at 14:08

Just who is proposing to nationalise what? There are parts of the old British railways system that have been sold off to other operators; there are independent operators operating under Light Railway Orders or Transport & Works Orders, there are even statutory railway companies dating back long before nationalisation in the 1940s. I am told there are some 500 miles of independent railways: some of them have RMT members. On one line, two unions were set up for the express purpose of having an industrial dispute about who tightened the nut on the spindle of the insulator on the cross arms of the telegraph poles - I doubt if either of them reached the Registrar of Friendly Societies. But can we ask RMT, in the stern manner of Victorian fathers, 'Sir, what are your intentions toward my daughter?'

Jerry Alderson   12/08/2016 at 17:32

One thing above is not contentyious: "by a franchise which is clearly in financial trouble." I think most of us saw how unrealistic the bid was, and we know that passenger numbers have not grown as fast as needed. Is not not an incompatiblity between the RMT saying "nearly 200 members' jobs are under threat" and VTEC saying "there will be no compulsory redundancies." If VTEC is telling the truth then there are no "members' jobs under threat", since no member's job will be removed without their consent - or perhaps the statement refers to terms and conditions being at threat not the employment. Presumably there are nealry 200 jobs that VTEC would like to change or abolish but the article gives us ZERO idea of what these jobs are and what the change night be. It's a great pity that all Rail Technology Magazine does is print press releases without asking any questions in order to inform its readers. How about publishing an anonymised copy of one of these letters that VTEC sent out?

Martin T   12/08/2016 at 18:27

We've had almost 20 years of rail staff getting above-inflation pay increases every year. As well as pushing up the cost of running the railway it has had negative effects on the staff being willing to work overtime. Every fully-trained full-time train driver in Britain is a 40% tax payer. With many guards on £35k+ pay most of them are as well if they do some overtime. Rail staff are in the enviable position of being able to risk losing pay during a strike since they'll just be giving up luxuries not basics. The railway has been able to sustain it because patrongarte has gone up without too much cost because there was spare capacity in the system (e.g. under-utilised rolling stock). The quick wins are gone. The railway seems to be turning into Mr Creosote and faces a choice between getting a bit leaner or exploding. I think the rail staff need to realise that they've pushed it as far as they can before boiling frog dies.

Mark H   16/08/2016 at 13:49

So Martin T, you claim that almost 20 years of rail staff getting above-inflation pay increases every year has pushed up the running costs of the railway. Nothing to do with 20 years of privatisation and TOCs having to answer to shareholders and investors? And where is this 'under-utilised' rolling stock you mention? Since Chiltern Railways placed an order for new rolling stock after winning their franchise, there has been an almost constant stream of new trains being introduced as well as infrastructure improvements and upgrades to increase line speeds, capacity and to run more frequent and longer trains. This is why patronage has increased, hardly a 'quick win' as you put it. It sounds like sour grapes that you're complaining about rail staff wages - and why shouldn't drivers earn a decent salary given their level of responsibility? Do you begrudge airline pilots earning a decent salary too? However, we don't know the ins and outs of this dispute on VTEC and the RMT may have a valid concern or they may just be flexing their muscles - let's hope it's the former.

Martin T   28/09/2016 at 19:52

To Mark H. The point is that there WAS under-utilised rolling stock in BR days but that has gone. GNER increased the number of services from about 95 to about 135 trains a day without any extra rolling stock. That was a quick win, and the cost increase to support more revenue was therefore lower, hence it was possible to give staff above-inflation salaries then. "the RMT may have a valid concern or they may just be flexing their muscles - let's hope it's the former." Surely we should hope it is the latter, because that would mean that railway costs could be reduced without impacting on the service to passengers. Remember: VTEC exists to serve passengers. It does not exist to employ people. The latter only happens if the passengers want the service.

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