Posted 13th April 2017 | 1 Comment
RMT announces two days of strikes on East Coast
RMT members on Virgin Trains East Coast are set to walk out for two days at the end of this month in a dispute over the future role of guards or train managers on East Coast services.
VTEC said it will run a near normal timetable during the industrial action on 28 and 29 April, thanks to ‘detailed contingency plans’.
The union has already staged one strike over the issue, claiming that it had ‘sought an explicit clarification on the company’s position on the retention of the role of the guard, in the form of seeking a specific assurance from the employer that the new role of train manager will retain the safety critical roles and training currently held by train guards. The only response the company has offered is to repeat the vague and non-committal mantra of “within our discussions we have confirmed that the safety critical duties of the guard will remain on the train.”’
In spite of its name, the franchise is mainly owned by Stagecoach Group which has a 90 per cent holding, while Virgin has 10 per cent.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “It is simply appalling that Virgin East Coast have refused to give the most basic assurances on the safety-critical role of the guard on their trains continuing into the future. Instead they have sought to fob us off with meaningless statements that are frankly an insult to the intelligence of our members who are charged with maintaining safety on-board these inter-city trains.
“On top of that chaotic, operational changes have been bulldozed through and there is now an additional threat to stations and travel centre staff that leaves our members on a knife-edge.
“This contemptuous attitude has unleashed a tidal-wave of anger at the grass roots and the action we have agreed to put on is simply a reflection of the disgust and frustration at months of ducking and diving by Virgin/Stagecoach. The action is on and the union remains available for meaningful and genuine talks.”
VTEC said it had ‘given assurances on each point raised by the union at the start of the dispute in May 2016 – such as ruling out any compulsory redundancies as a result of the changes’.
Managing director David Horne said: “I want to reassure our customers that our timetable will be almost completely unaffected during this walk-out, as well as during any subsequent strikes by the RMT. Passengers can book and plan their journeys as normal and with confidence.
“The changes we have made are part of the customer-centric revolution that’s underway on the east coast. Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition – one that focuses firmly on the customer.
“The on-board changes came into force on 31 March. Last week – the first full week since the changes – saw us achieve our second highest customer satisfaction score since taking over the franchise, so we are confident the changes are benefiting customers.
“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a near normal timetable in place during the walk-outs, this pointless strike will cost RMT members pay for no reason, and we urge the union to rejoin us for further discussions.”
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