Network Rail - Role of SSMs and MOMs

Our Ref BR5/14/1

1st July 2021

To all SSMs and MOMs at Network Rail

Dear Colleagues,


I write to advise you that your National Operations Council representatives submitted a report to the unions NEC concerning Network Rail’s desire to review the Shift Signalling Manager (SSM) and Mobile Operations Manager (MOM) roles. Whilst we were supportive of the original concept for improving the management of Signaller competence, even though it was clearly an attempt to justify the management consultancy fees the System Thinking Interventions workstreams invite, we do not support the companies wish to revise the role of the SSM and MOM grades.

In terms of MOMs, Network Rail were seeking to use the downtime they experience to introduce additional work to help support the management. Our NOC reps report this didn’t get past the informal discussion stage when it was made abundantly clear we would be actively hostile to any attempt to change the role of the MOM outside of our agreed Collective Bargaining process. The company has decided not to pursue any changes to the MOM role.

Network Rail did however propose changes which would be trialled with SSMs at Manchester Rail Operating Centre (ROC). Our reps report that the company produced several consultation documents which fell short of informing us of exactly what it is they wanted to do. All versions were written in a management style which our reps believe was aimed to obfuscate and leave us bewildered.

In order to understand what these proposals entail, our NOC reps visited Manchester ROC to speak to our affected members and local management. They report that the SSM complement at the location is 8 Residents and 3 Reliefs with 4 of the Resident SSMs being chosen to take part in the trial. Our reps are extremely concerned that Manchester ROC has been chosen for the trial because their SSMs are already working to the limits of their Job Description with certain accountabilities being interpreted in such a way to pull them into a more management role, as opposed to their prime function as supervisors to support Signallers and maintain efficient train running.

The SSM job purpose states:

“Manage the operation of the Signalling Centre and Signalling Staff on a shift basis, maintaining that all operating standards and procedures are adhered too. Manage the operation of train services to deliver the highest standards of safety and train performance.”

The JD’s No.1 accountability then states:

“Direct and co-ordinate the activities of signallers within the Signalling Centre, to manage the safe & efficient operation of the Signalling equipment under their control”

They currently concentrate more on key accountabilities 5 & 6:

‘Carry out investigations into operational incidents, interviewing Signallers involved in incidents and obtaining written reports where necessary. Provide written reports into incidents and investigatory interviews as required. Local Operations Manager with signaller development, discipline, Managing for health and Poor Performance’.

Your reps believe this trial would just rubber stamp what they are already doing, in effect formalising the company’s interpretation of the SSM role whilst adding the following extra duties:

• Level 1 Safety investigations: currently the SSM starts the process because they are on duty when the incident happens and then hands it to the LOM to complete. They want to trial the SSM completing the whole process.

• Development Action Plans (DAP) & Performance Improvement Process (PIP): These are LOM duties in most Signalling Centres, in Manchester the SSMs carry this out and they want this to continue.

• Control Centre Incident Log (CCIL): They want to give SSMs access to input performance data directly into this live log. At present the SSM informs the Controller and the Controller decides and controls where the data gets entered.

The NEC has considered this matter and thanked our reps for bringing this issue to its attention. I have been instructed to write to Network Rail stating we do not support their proposed trial at Manchester ROC, will not support their trial in other outlying locations and object to SSMs carrying out DAP & PIPs.

As far as we are concerned, the best place to have these discussions is in the SSM working group remitted through the National Operations Council which hasn’t met since 2017. The NEC has stated we would be happy to restart talks in this group to develop the SSM role as a supervisory role making sure the duty signaller is operating signalling equipment, guiding signallers on regulating decisions, supporting increased workloads in time of perturbation, supervising protection arrangements for trackside staff, and ensuring efficient safe working environment for signallers to operate. We are aware how inconsistently the SSM role is applied in the 35 locations where SSMs operate, our objective is for our SSM members to have clear supervisory accountabilities, ergonomically assessed locations coupled with full training packages.

I am writing to you today, for the particular attention of SSM members advising to advise you of this situation and hope you will understand and to support RMT’s position on this matter. Further the NEC has stated that we encourage our SSM members to satisfy the core part of your existing Job Description as, if this is done effectively, there should not be time to carry out management tasks within your shift.

As outlined above we have told the company we do not support any trial on this issue and have requested discussions take place under the established working group. Members will be kept fully informed of developments.

Yours sincerely

Michael Lynch
General Secretary