22 July 2016


The RMT want you to know the truth about the current dispute situation within VTEC.

Our Ref: BR2/0025
22nd July 2016

Dear Colleague,


The RMT want you to know the truth about the current dispute situation within VTEC.

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

Long-standing agreements between our two organisations dictate that the company must negotiate with us, 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 your terms and conditions are negotiable matters.

The company have chosen to treat the negotiations as a game thus far, merely going through the motions of pretending they did not yet know what their plans entailed. To behave like that is to treat you and our union with contempt.

That is made clear by the following fact: On July 13th 2016, your RMT negotiating team met with the company under the avoidance of disputes procedure. These meetings take place for that reason only; to try and avoid a dispute situation.

For the company to claim as they did on July 13th, that they still couldn`t give us answers to some of our questions is beyond contempt, when on July 20th, within 24 hours of your union informing the company that a dispute situation now existed and the union would be balloting our members for industrial action, the company finally came clean and revealed the full extent of their plans in a document sent out to all employees.

The company are obliged to negotiate any changes to your terms and conditions of employment and current working practices with the recognised negotiating body, your representatives. We want to draw your initial attention to what the company have said in their document of July 20th.

Quote “We had originally planned to share this document with the trade union representatives in the first instance but at the same time we want to share it with you too. We`ve taken a different approach to this round of talks than the traditional railway approach to union talks.” If their original plans were to share the document as they are obliged to, why did they take a conscious decision to hide it from us? Also, why have the company suddenly started acting differently to other companies within the industry and ripping up agreements?

The company have had more than ample opportunity to let your representatives know the extent of their plans, but have chosen to rip up long-standing agreements and patronise you instead. Even during an avoidance of disputes meeting; they knew and they hid it!

From day one, the RMT asked the company to give us assurances on 6 main points:
1.    PTR&R will be adhered to at all times.
2.    No compulsory redundancies.
3.    A safety-critical guard will be present on every train.
4.    Confirmation of establishment numbers.
5.    TUPE to be adhered to.
6.    Protection of rates of pay.

Addressing the current company response, the union can report on each point separately as follows:

1.    The company have given us assurances that PTR&R will be adhered to throughout the process. However, these are contractual employment rights and the company have no option but to agree them. Your union has fought long and hard to secure this historical protection.

2.    In their latest propaganda, the company are claiming there will be no compulsory redundancies, yet this is totally contradictory to what they have told your negotiating team in meetings.

On July 14th, 2016, the very day after the final avoidance of disputes meeting, the last time the company spoke to your union around the table, the company wrote to the RMT and stated “we do not anticipate any need to rely upon a compulsory redundancy exercise.” In the July 20th document, the company stated; “we aren`t intending to make anyone compulsorily redundant.” This is wholly different to a firm guarantee of job security.

On July 20th, the very day after we informed the company a dispute situation now existed, they again wrote to us. Stating “I wrote to you again on July 14th 2016 with further clear assurances in relation to your stated areas of concern, in particular with regards to the issue of no compulsory redundancies in Customer Experience and Engineering Functions, which we have said there will be none.”

Please remember, the actual wording of the company`s July 14th 2016 letter was; “we do not anticipate any need to rely upon a compulsory redundancy exercise.”

So, if there is to be no compulsory redundancies as the company now claim, why could they simply not make that statement of no compulsory redundancies to your negotiating team? The direct question was asked over and over again during formal meetings. The company chose not to give us that guarantee. Why do you believe the company took that option?

When our negotiating team challenged the estimated figures facing possible displacement or otherwise, the company could not respond with any clarity, merely producing some figures that your very experienced representatives contradicted as they did not add up correctly. Those figures have now changed again, in the July 20th document. Why could the company not tell us a week prior when we sat opposite them what their alleged real figures were? They claimed not to know, yet only one week later they suddenly claim to know for sure.

Your negotiating team asked what process the company would utilise in the event of under or over-application for the voluntary severance scheme. Astonishingly, the company admitted there was no system in place at present. That is still the case!

How can the company now claim there will be no compulsory redundancies if they haven`t a clue how the voluntary severance scheme will affect the numbers? If they have a system in place to successfully manage the possibility of not enough employees seeking voluntary redundancy, why have they not shared that with us? We have asked the company enough times to see their system. We are still waiting.

The company's reluctance to provide us with a firm assurance there will be no compulsory redundancies, before we reluctantly took a decision to ballot you for industrial action, provides a clear indication, that if allowed to get away with their plans, the end result will mean people either forced into jobs they don't want, maybe not even within the company, or people forced out of the door and onto the unemployment scrapheap.

3.    During meetings with your negotiating team, when pressed over what additional duties the individual carrying out the safety-critical role of the guard would be expected to perform the company could only repeat parrot-fashion that the safety-critical duties of the guard would remain on the train.

It was clear to your negotiating team that the company knew full well what their future plans for such a combined role would entail, but were very reluctant to share that information with us nigh on to the point of patronising them.

When challenged with what we believed those additional duties may look like, the impression was given we were not far wrong in our assumptions. A day after entering into a dispute situation, we suddenly get to see what those additional duties will look like, in the July 20th document. Management stated  “we want to work with you to remove the barriers that get in the way of providing our customers with an amazing experience and the working practices that don`t work for you.” The company claim to believe the way to do that is by giving you a multi-role that will somehow leave the customers having had an “amazing experience.” We too believe the customer may be amazed, only not in a positive way.

How will the new role of Customer Experience Leader be able to complete all of the safety related duties, lead, coach and supervise, deliver revenue, whilst successfully supporting their colleagues in dealing with all of the other customer service issues that arise? That is an absolute nonsense and a disaster waiting to happen!

The company was asked by your negotiating team throughout the meetings if they had even spoken to their employees that currently perform those numerous duties, to ascertain the logistics of successfully executing those responsibilities, or whether the company had even completed any time and motion studies to justify their aspirations. The company admitted they have carried out no time and motion studies to check whether dual roles and responsibilities would work, although they have very recently asked those employees who have previously carried out former dual roles and responsibilities on previous contracts, about their experiences.

The unanimous response has been it didn`t work then and it won`t work now!

4.    The union can only refer to the comments in point 2 other than to add, that throughout the meetings, your negotiating team remained frustrated and concerned that the company claimed not to know their current organisational headcount, nor what their aspired headcount and organisational structure would look like, should they be successful in achieving their aims. Yet in the July 20th document, the company suddenly know the exact figures, again why not share them with us when asked over and again to do so?

5.    The company response is that they will adhere to TUPE at all times. However, this is only as far as the non-depot maintenance employees are concerned. Regarding depot maintenance employees, the company response was their intention is for TUPE to apply, but they have had zero assurances from Hitachi that this will be the case. The company also told your negotiating team they are reluctant to push Hitachi on this matter!

6.    Should the company adhere to their response to point 1 then protection of rates of pay will be covered under adherence to the PTR&R.

Many meetings have taken place which the company has described as productive or progressive this is not the case. The effort, in maintaining momentum in those talks has come from RMT representatives. The union has not been provided with one shred of information that would assure us. Our view today is a simple and honest one. All roles, whether Guards, Crew Leaders, Chefs, CSAs, Station Staff, Travel Centre Staff or Depot Staff are at risk either through removal of grade or major changes in responsibilities.

Much will be we written and briefed by management, but we would ask you to remember the priority of your union is to protect our members, your jobs, your terms and conditions and your current working practices. The priority of the company is to return profits to its shareholders.

If you are asked to agree to any changes to your current roles and responsibilities, or to your current terms and conditions of employment, please inform your RMT Representatives immediately.

Management will try by any avenues possible to get you to engage with them regarding their proposals. When this happens, the response must be to tell the management to go and speak with your elected RMT Representatives. Only they are the recognised negotiating body and they will protect and fight for your best interests!

The company are telling you that they want to talk with the RMT, that they want to sort out our differences and to work together that is simply not true. It has now been over a full day since the company received correspondence from us, requesting the release of your full Company Council, to meet with our Lead Officer. This is so we can begin to go through the July 20th document, as that is the first and only time the company has shared this information with you. As yet, the company have ignored our request. That is definitely not the actions of a company who claim to want to talk, to try and resolve the current dispute situation.

Accordingly your RMT National Executive Committee has been left with no other option than to enter into a dispute situation to protect you, our members.

Your ballot papers will be distributed from Tuesday, July 26th and the ballot will close on Tuesday, August 9th. If you do not receive your ballot paper by Tuesday 2nd August please ring the RMT helpline on 0800 376 3706 or the main switchboard on 020 7387 4771 and ask for the Industrial Relations Department where arrangements will be made to check your details and a duplicate voting paper sent out.

You will be asked two questions:
Are you prepared to take industrial action and are you prepared to take industrial action short of strike action? It is vital to your cause that you answer yes to both questions. Also I urge you to actively recruit any non-members you know within your workplace. The more members, the stronger we will be in our fight to protect your very livelihoods.


Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary

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