Posted 13th July 2012 | 5 Comments

Union claims '800 jobs at risk' on West Coast

THE RMT union is claiming that up to 800 jobs could be at risk on the West Coast intercity franchise, because on-board catering services are facing the axe when the next contract starts in December.

There has been speculation for some time that discussions have been taking place with the shortlisted West Coast bidders on whether catering services should be reduced or changed, but now the RMT has warned that a complete withdrawal is also possible. This would mean that 20 additional seats would replace the shop, and the service of complimentary meals in First Class would be withdrawn.

The union said it had discussed West Coast developments with Alstom, which built and maintains the Pendolinos, and that the possible withdrawal of all catering services had emerged during these talks. It also claimed that Alstom had confirmed that it has been discussing changes to the on-board configuration of the Pendolinos with all four bidders.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: "It is disgraceful that bidders for the prestige West Coast route are looking at ripping out catering and shop facilities to cram in extra seats so that they can jack up profits at the price of both jobs and passenger service and we are calling for this scandalous suggestion to be killed off right now. 

"We warned that this franchise was being let on 'McNulty Terms', where profiteering is rife and customers end up jammed into overcrowded, unstaffed trains and pay through the nose for the privilege. The confirmation of the rumours that catering is under threat backs up all the RMT warnings and we will work with politicians, campaign groups and the travelling public to throw out these proposals.”

However, Alstom denied that it has been discussing the details of the bids. A spokesman said: "We do not know about the future catering proposals of the West Coast Main Line franchise. There has been no meeting with the RMT on the subject.”

The present operator on the route, Virgin Trains, said it did not comment on matters connected with West Coast bids.

Four bidders are competing for the new franchise, which starts in December. They include Virgin, in partnership with Stagecoach Group. The others are Abellio, FirstGroup and a joint venture of Keolis and SNCF. The name of the winner is expected to be announced by the DfT in August.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Philip Russell, Carlisle

    Neither First or stagecoach have abolished catering on other services they run in fact Great Western kept buffet counters rather than change to trolleys so i view this union report with some doubt,but steve is correct in stating that Virgin have recruited large numbers of catering staff on short term contracts in the last few years plus using hundreds of contract cleaners on barely above minimum wage offering them no nignt shift rate or free or reduced rate travel facilities

  • s d, peterborough

    Think people should stop moaning about peoples jobs, and get on with there own. 800 staff could be made redundant which is a massive shame, all because some idiot called numpty, sorry mcnaulty did a report for which the goverment paid him how much?. are us people stupid enought to believe that if companys get rid of staff they will put ticket prices down? get real they might stay the same price for 6 months, but believe me the prices will still rise because the railway has always made money for the rich that own it.

  • David, Guildford

    800 jobs as risk claims union. Has anyone checked their facts or is this unions make up any rubbish and get away with it?

    (Our story reports what the RMT is saying. We also sought reactions from Alstom and Virgin. The reality will not be known until the ICWC franchise is awarded next month.—Editor.)

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    I don't use Catering services when I fly or on any train journey other than Eurostar when I'm travelling the whole distance. Its just too much hastle and too expensive. Back in the 'good old days' when trains were slower I did enjoy a 'Full English' but its not the same now. I can understand why its a dying trade, but as trains go faster, and the ride is bumpier (whatever is claimed) I don't want half my glass of wine thrown on the table or my clothes. I used to enjoy working on the trains with a very polite waiter service and well cooked food but half the journey today is spent trying to persuade someone to move from my reserved seat.

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    To add insult to injury, for the last 18 months have Virgin Trains deliberately recruited a very large number of staff on both fixed and short term contracts, so that should Virgin lost the franchise, the new operator will come under fire straight away due removing to unaffordable surplus staff.

    Additionally, they are the only train company to have introduced casual labour.

    Using fixed-term staff as pawns in their battle is a move I consider both childish and cruel and they have proved they are not mature enough to hold a rail franchise.