Our Ref: BR1/5/6
2nd April 2020
IMPACT OF COVID-19 – HULL TRAINS
As you are aware, Hull Trains has taken the decision to cease all operations during the current global pandemic. The company is now in the process of furloughing you and your colleagues with immediate effect and placing you on the Government job retention scheme. Whilst there is a small number of office based members still working, it is the company’s intention to also furlough these members by the end of the week.
Your union, along with other trade unions, has met with Hull Trains via video conferencing. We put forward a robust argument and demanded that no member of staff should suffer any financial determent due to the current crisis. Before this pandemic, you and your colleagues have been on the frontline, ensuring the safe and successful operation of Hull trains. Your hard work and dedication has made millions in profits for First Group and we now believe that during this difficult time the company should be doing everything to protect their staff. There is no question that First Group can easily afford to make sure no member of staff is at a loss because of this global pandemic. However, the company has callously rejected our position and instead stated that all staff will be placed on the basic job retention scheme.
In another heartless attempt to attack members’ terms and conditions and to use this global pandemic to the company’s advantage, Hull Trains presented the union with new contracts of employment. The company is now asking you and your colleagues to agree to these new contracts. To be clear, the company has NOT consulted with your union prior to the temporary variation of the contract that has been sent to you. In fact our first discussions and involvement was when they were presented to your union yesterday. We have serious concerns over a number of issues in the contracts that the company is now asking, you as individuals, to agree to. The main concerns are as follows:
• The union believes that the wording in regards to pay arrangements needs amending as it is not consistent with the Government job retention scheme (furlough). The company’s proposals could leave members short in terms of their entitlement. This is not acceptable and we have asked the company to revise this clause immediately.
• The company has included a ‘lay off clause’ into the new contracts. Potentially, this could mean that should the job retention scheme come to an end (currently only agreed by Government until the end of May), the company could invoke this clause and pay you a maximum of £29 per day over 5 days in a 3 month period. Presently this is not in current contracts of employment, meaning at this moment in time the company can not invoke this. This change is not acceptable and we have asked the company to remove this clause.
• The company has included a clause that when they come to re-engage they can start your employment on terms and conditions that they deem to be appropriate at the time. This has seriously worrying implications and means that there is potential that your current terms and conditions, including pay, are no longer applicable. This opens the possible for the company to essentially do whatever they want without the need to negotiate and agree to any changes. This is totally unacceptable and we have asked the company to immediately remove this clause.
We are still awaiting a response from Hull Trains over the concerns we have raised. Whilst you are unable to out-rightly refuse to sign the new contract, the union has produced a pro-forma for you and your colleagues to fill out and attach with the contract the company has sent you in order to protect your employment and current terms and conditions. I understand that some of you may have already returned the contract to the company, I would ask that you email or return this pro-forma to confirm the position you are taking and to safeguard your existing conditions.
Your union is doing everything and will continue to work diligently to ensure you and your colleagues are protected during this difficult time.