16 April 2014
RAIL UNION RMT today announced that staff have voted by huge majorities across Heathrow Express for industrial action in response to a package of multi-million pound cuts which amount to an all-out assault on pay, jobs and safety.
The strike vote was almost nine to one with an even bigger majority for action short of a strike. The results will now be considered by RMT’s executive.
RMT members are furious that Heathrow Express plans to re-organise its workforce indicating that, in an attempt to save £6 million over the next five years, some 201 jobs are now placed under threat of redundancy, representing almost a half of the current workforce. The attack on jobs and working conditions comes as a direct result of the decision of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to cut £600 million from the Heathrow Airport budget over the same period.
In order to meet their share of this cuts target Heathrow Express are proposing:
• The removal of the Customer Service Representative (CSR) role to be replaced by a new Customer Host grade on a reduced salary.
• Current CSR staff to see their pay frozen for an expected ten years until the proposed new grade reaches an equivalent salary.
• Removal of the CSA grade on Heathrow Connect Services and for Train Drivers to take on the “evacuation of passengers in emergency” role.
• The extension of Driver Only Operation and self-despatch of trains at all locations apart from Paddington.
RMT has repeatedly made it clear the Heathrow Express proposals are completely unacceptable and under no circumstances will the union tolerate a situation where members are made to pay for the company’s cost cutting agenda. This point has been reinforced in face to face talks but the company has refused to budge an inch. RMT is also disgusted that the cuts are being driven through at a time when Heathrow is generating dividend payments of over £600 million a year to wealthy investors. Those messages have been reinforced in the massive votes for action across the company.
The Civil Aviation Authority, in its own study of the cuts plans has said that:
“The CAA considered that HAL might have scope to reduce the level of Heathrow Express staff. However, this could reduce ticket revenues and the quality of the rail service.”
RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT does not buy for a moment the case for handing out savage cuts to Heathrow Express when Heathrow is generating hand-outs to shareholders of over £600 million. Our members have now sent the clearest possible message in this ballot that they are prepared to stand up and fight the cuts and the threat to pay, working conditions and jobs.
“The Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services are dealing with growing demand as the airport expands and the idea that safety and service is going to be sacrificed at the stroke of an accountant’s pen would shame London and leave these high-profile services extremely vulnerable. The CAA themselves have warned that the staffing cuts are a false economy which will hit revenues as service quality drops through the floor.
“The removal of on board staff, and the driving forwards of Driver Only Operation, would render services inherently unsafe and make evacuation in the wake of an emergency incident or terrorist alert an absolute nightmare.
“The planned axing of jobs, and the associated freezing and hacking back of pay and working conditions, is a kick in the teeth for the staff who have made Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect the success story that they are today. The staff have now spoken and it is down to company to halt the cuts plans and start talking seriously about the future of this vital London transport link.”