RMT calls more rail staff out on strike

NEWS that the RMT union has called strikes with two more train operators will add to a summer of discontent for thousands of rail passengers.

On top of the long running dispute with Southern and its parent company Govia Thameslink Railway over driver only operated trains (DOO), the RMT has called on its staff to strike who work for Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) and also Eurostar. The strike will affect guards, station staff and some drivers.

Virgin East Coast from 03.00 on August 19, 26 and 29 as well as banning overtime working for 48 hours from August 27. The strike action stems from changes VTEC wants to make to staff working in customer facing roles that will mean a single person take responsibility for the customer experience on board.

VTEC says it has no impact on safety, and talks with the RMT broke up on August 11, the union walking out. The union claims that 200 jobs are under threat.

Commented VTEC managing director David Horne: “The changes we are making are part of the customer-centric revolution we have planned for the east coast. We’re already half-way through our complete refresh of our trains with all new interiors being rolled out, and in two years will have our brand-new Azuma trains coming into service. Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition – one that focuses firmly on the customer.

“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during the walk-outs, these strikes will cost RMT members pay for no reason, and we urge the union to rejoin us around the negotiating table.”

Virgin has promised to run a normal timetable in spite of the dispute.

In the Eurostar dispute, RMT members had announced strikes on August 12-15 and 27-29, the latter over the bank holiday weekend. This strike would affect train managers, and relates to issues over rostering and unsocial hours, the union claiming that Eurostar has failed to honour an agreement dating from 2008. In addition to the strike by RMT members, TSSA staff plan to strike on August 14-15 and 28-29.

However as this report was being prepared to uploading, it was announced that the Eurostar strike had been suspended to allow further talks to take place.

It’s been a wretched summer for some passengers, the strikes on Southern over running more DOO trains has been going on for several months and on August 10 came the news that a five-day strike had been suspended for more talks. Because of the dispute, Southern had initially cut 341 services from its timetable per day, and for the five-day strike cut a further 600 as an emergency timetable was used.