ROLE OF THE GUARD & INTRODUCTION OF DOO – WEST MIDLANDS TRAINS

Our Ref: BR2/0146

Dear Colleague,

15th October 2019

Dear Colleague,

ROLE OF THE GUARD & INTRODUCTION OF DOO – WEST MIDLANDS TRAINS

You will have no doubt received correspondence from Adrian Thompson with the company’s spin and propaganda on the Safety Critical Role of the Guard Dispute. It is inevitable that members will receive information from the company to try and mislead, misinform and deter members from expressing a clear democratic right.

Management are correct in their letter that no one wants to take strike action, the union would much rather negotiate with the company and reach an agreement. However, West Midlands Trains have done everything possible to put their profits before rail safety and jobs. The company demonstrated during discussions that they are keen to take away the key operational – door control element - from the Safety Critical Role of the Senior Conductor Grade. This is a common tactic by management to slowly chip away at a certain grades responsibilities with the eventual aim of removing the grade entirely in the future. The union does not employ ‘worry’ tactics. We defend member’s terms and conditions from very real and serious threats deployed by management. As you are more than aware, the Guard/Conductor Grade is facing serious attacks across the Rail Industry, it is amazing that WMT would treat you and your colleagues with such naïve disdain. It is also interesting that in Adrian’s correspondence he mentions three other train operating companies that are determined to try and remove the safety critical conductor grade, of course, it would be wrong to assume that this is a concerted effort by the Rail Industry to remove this key vital grade to boost company profits.

Your Lead Officer, Company Council Representatives and union have been in discussions with WMT over the company’s proposals. Your union has put forward a number of searching questions about WMT’s plans, with some being ‘conveniently’ ignored and others not providing coherent and reassuring answers. The questions that did get answered often led down a route that would eventually see Driver Only Operation fully implemented with the Senior Conductor role eventually phased out. If the company where keen on keeping the Senior Conductor grade, then there is really no need to make any changes or remove any competencies, unless of course, the company has a wider agenda at play. This is further compounded by the fact that the current fleet of trains are configured for Senior Conductor (Guard) Operation of the doors. The new fleet - being built in Spain – is passively wired for a Senior Conductor Door Operation. Therefore, it begs the question; If the company are paying Senior Conductors to operate the doors now then why pay another grade to overtake those duties in the future?

WMT has also told you what your union ‘might’ say about ASLEF and Drivers, the union has not mentioned ASLEF in our correspondence or discussions with the company. However, the company has conveniently forgot to tell you and your colleagues that they have agreed for the Driver grade and ASLEF union to leave the collective bargaining with the other unions and have also allowed them to move their pay anniversary dates. This agreement has been made for the entire length of the franchise for drivers. The company has also agreed to discuss a year by year pay deal for the rest of the franchise with ASLEF for drivers. A clear example of a company prepared to split a united workforce and do deals with certain grades at the potential detriment to other grades.

Industrial action is never taken lightly and this is clearly evident in our discussions with West Midlands Trains. We have been in discussions for almost two years and it is only now that we feel the company are intent on removing the conductor grade and therefore need to call industrial action. Long drawn out strikes is not what we want – although the company seem to be anticipating this, which only means the company are preparing for a long dispute. The simple argument is that the union wants a safe and secure railway for everyone and the company want to decimate safety and boost profits.

Therefore, when you receive your ballot paper, make sure you vote and send the company a clear message that we will not allow them to destroy this vital safety critical role. We must stand united against a company who has little regard for you and your colleagues. We all know WMT are only interested in securing what’s best for them and not what’s best for you and the passengers.

If you have not received your ballot paper by Tuesday 22nd October 2019 please contact the RMT Helpline on 0800 376 3706 or Head Office on 0207 387 4771 and request a replacement voting paper. Additionally, if you know of a colleague who has recently moved address or changed grade, then please ask them to contact us on one of the above numbers so they can also have their say! It is imperative that we get a massive return in the ballot so we are not prevented from acting on members' wishes by the new ballot thresholds.

I urge you not to waste your vote when you receive your ballot paper and to vote 'YES' FOR STRIKE ACTION AND 'YES' FOR INDUSTRIAL ACTION SHORT OF A STRIKE to get management to produce a safe and sensible proposal, meet our demands to maintain the safety critical role of the Guard and guarantee us there will be no introduction of DOO.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary