DISMISSAL, DECLAN CLUNE - BLUESTAR

Our Ref B/4/1

8th April 2021

TO ALL BUS DRIVERS AT BLUESTAR

BALLOT FOR INDUSTRIAL ACTION NOW OPEN
PLEASE RETURN YOUR VOTING PAPER WHEN YOU RECEIVE IT
VOTE YES TO BOTH QUESTIONS

Dear Colleagues,

DISMISSAL, DECLAN CLUNE - BLUESTAR

Further to my previous letter in relation to the above matter, I am writing to advise you that ballot papers have been dispatched. Therefore, your ballot paper should hit your doormat in the next few days. It goes without saying that as soon as you receive your ballot paper you should do everything in your power to make sure it is returned to the independent scrutineer and you should encourage all RMT members in your workplace to use their vote. If you face any form of questioning from management about the dispute please get in touch with your union with the utmost urgency.

You will have more than likely already received propaganda from the company's General Manager. The company’s letter headed ‘Recent Media Coverage’ contains errors, vague assertions, and misdirection throughout. The only paragraph free from misinformation or a misleading statement is the first! Nevertheless, despite the length’s management have had to take to construe an argument based on reasonable and fairness, it is only fair to members that the points are addressed. To leave Bluestar’s statement unaddressed would do a serious injustice to your colleague and representative who has been dismissed.

At the beginning of the letter members are advised to report “fresh damage” that you are “reasonably sure of” to control and to Network Rail. This begs the question, how a driver is expected to see the top of the bus from the ground? In any case, a driver who reported to control a possible bridge strike was told not to report an incident to Network Rail but to continue back to the Southampton Depot, and back out on the same route with the same bus.

Bluestar then inform you that safety is their “number one priority” and that management “would never do anything to compromise this”. If safety is paramount, why did management not conduct a full investigation when it was reported to control that there had been a possible bridge strike? Why weren’t Network Rail informed by Bluestar? Both are reasonable steps to take for an organisation that claims to value safety above all else and does not compromise on this important question.

Management makes the point that minutes are produced of health and safety meetings and distributed amongst the management team, as well as being available for others to view. RMT has had it confirmed by Bluestar that no minutes exist of the meeting in which your H&S representatives reported the issue of the possible bridge strikes. When management drove the bus under bridge during their investigation there was a loud bang as if they had hit something, but this was not reported to Network Rail.

The company then go on to say that the incident was investigated with no evidence for the bus having struck the bridge. It was only investigated once Network Rail had advised them that they had a report and Bluestar are still unaware of what caused the loud bangs. RMT Health & Safety representatives were not included in the investigation, but the bus was driven by management and a loud bang was experienced. The company have been unable to provide any plausible explanation for this noise. They have also changed all the tree bars, lowered the suspension on the bus and tightened the roof. Why were these measures necessary if management are confident enough to categorically exclude a bridge strike?

Bluestar then go on to describe several inspections they conducted following a further report in November of a possible bridge strike. You are told “it was not physically possible for the bus to have hit the bridge” – but only after the inspections had been carried out. The company have been unable to positively identify the cause of the loud bangs experienced when buses pass under the bridge.

Brother Clune’s reporting of the incident to Network Rail is described as “could have brought the company’s repute into question and indeed the subsequent media coverage has potentially tarnished our reputation.” Dismissing an employee for raising their safety concerns is surely a greater tarnish on the company’s reputation. Bluestar have imposed the most severe punishment possible by dismissing Brother Declan Clune for reporting his safety concerns. That is, Declan has been sacked for seeking to ensure safety, not endangering it in anyway. This damages Bluestar’s standing as a responsible travel operator.

The company then go on to assert that a report made to Network Rail could lead to a public inquiry. As Bluestar’s stated commitment is primarily to safety they would surely be exonerated by such an inquiry. The spectre of “the business closing with all jobs being lost” is raised. Bluestar are disingenuously asserting that the reporting of safety concerns amounts to a threat to your jobs, it is not. Robust safety practices are a necessary aspect to any transport operator. It is from observing safe operation and raising safety concerns that accidents are averted every day.

During the investigation into Brother Declan Clune’s case 70% of Drivers interviewed said they had hit the bridge. It has been reported to the company many times over by Drivers, as well as having been raised on a H&S walk by an RMT representative; it is not true to state that bridge strike allegations have never been raised.

The company that has sacked your colleague for reporting their safety concerns concludes by assuring you that if you have safety concerns that they will be taken seriously, investigated and management’s actions or response provided to you.

Therefore, I am urging you all to vote 'YES' to both questions in the ballot for industrial action. It is vital we receive a huge 'YES' vote so we can continue the fight for justice. If the statutory thresholds are not met, then no industrial action can happen - even if members vote overwhelmingly 'YES' for strike action and industrial action short of a strike. Therefore, IF YOU DON'T VOTE - IT COUNTS AS A 'NO' VOTE. We cannot allow Bluestar to get away with sacking a trade union representative for reporting safety concerns and for them to use the draconian anti-trade union laws to end the dispute.

If you have not received your ballot paper by Monday 19th April 2021 please email us at info@rmt.org.uk or contact the RMT Helpline on 0800 376 3706 and a replacement ballot paper will be sent out to your home address first class post. Please make sure you return your ballot paper so it is received before the closing date of Tuesday 27th April 2021.

Important Please Note:  The Scrutineer for RMT Ballots and Elections is now 'Civica Election Services' (CES) and not the 'Electoral Reform Society'. Letters from Civica are not Junk Mail and should be opened.

DO NOT WASTE YOUR VOTE:
VOTE 'YES' FOR STRIKE ACTION AND 'YES' FOR ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE

I trust this keeps you fully advised on the matter and I will, of course, update you on any further developments.

Best wishes.

Mick Cash
General Secretary