To: All Members working on the Wales & Borders Franchise and Network Rail Wales
Wales and Borders Franchise
I am writing to update you on developments regarding the Wales and Borders Franchise.
Previously lobbying and campaigning by the RMT led to following assurances from the First Minister,
• Rail Infrastructure to remain with Network Rail
• The exception to this being the Cardiff Core Valley lines where ownership of the infrastructure would remain in the public sector with Transport for Wales
• No compulsory redundancies for five years and protections of conditions of service and pensions. KeolisAmey who have been awarded the franchise have also given a 15-year commitment to direct employees and their contractors.
• Retention of a Safety Critical Guard on all Wales & Borders services
• Maximum number of train maintenance staff employed in Wales, no compulsory redundancies and union recognition throughout the supply and contractual chain for new rolling stock
• Maximising job security and conditions for cleaning and catering grades
• Working constructively with RMT around our aspirations for ticket office and station staff
• A preference when UK wide legislation allows for all rail in wales to be in public sector
• Union representation on the Transport for Wales Board
Since that time your union has been in discussion with Transport for Wales and, with KeolisAmey recently assuming control of the franchise I can update you as follows.
Cardiff Core Valleys Network Rail Staff
Arising from an agreement between the Welsh Government and UK Government the assets of the Core Valley lines are to be transferred to the Wales Government.
If all arrangements can be finalised between both Government’s and Network Rail, asset transfer is scheduled to take place after September 2019, however we have yet to have confirmation that all the necessary arrangements have been agreed between the Government’s and Network Rail.
The commitment from the First Minister with regard to Network Rail was as follows;
• “The intent is that alongside the asset remaining in the public sector any affected Network Rail staff also remain employed in the public sector, either in Transport for Wales or in Network Rail, taking on board individual preferences.”
• “The Welsh Government and Transport for Wales will work at pace with Network Rail and union representatives to provide a detailed understanding of staff transferring out of Network Rail, being cognisant of the application of the TUPE regulations. This will include joint early identification of potentially affected individuals and exploring suitable working arrangements, for example by having their services provided under an alternative arrangement such that Network Rail remains their employer, considering, where possible, individual preferences.”
• “Where any transfer of individual employees from Network Rail takes place, the Welsh Government/Transport for Wales will provide suitable protection of employment and pension rights as afforded by Network Rail currently, with Transport for Wales as the employer, again taking aboard individual preferences. Transport for Wales will seek to work with Network Rail with the aim of providing the opportunity for any affected individual(s) to continue their ability to apply for opportunities within Network Rail and, if successful in any such application, to return to Network Rail with no detrimental effect on their terms and conditions, pension arrangements or continuity of service.”
• “Included in our commitment to employment protection would be a commitment to no compulsory redundancies in the first five years of the contract or changes to conditions without union agreement and staff remaining in the Network Rail Pension scheme or a new Transport for Wales pension scheme, with at least the same benefits.”
Since being provided with these assurances Network Rail have initially indicated that it may not be possible for them to provide any services in respect of the Core Valley Lines and in these circumstances affected employees won’t be able to remain with Network Rail. The union is still however actively pursuing this option with Network Rail and Transport for Wales.
If, however, a transfer does take place, this will be covered by the “TUPE” regulations. This in simple terms means that Network Rail individuals whose work is identified with maintenance and operations will have a right to follow their work when it transfers. In line with the First Minister’s assurances Transport for Wales would provide an opportunity for staff to transfer to them instead of KeolisAmey. Staff who transfer from Network Rail will have further protections which as outlined above includes no compulsory redundancies. The union’s expectation is that this could be extended as a 15-year guarantee as Transport for Wales will effectively be contracted to KeolisAmey to carry out activities previously undertaken by Network Rail. Other protections include no changes to conditions without union agreement, staff remaining in the Network Rail Pension scheme or a new Transport for Wales pension scheme, with at least the same benefits.
Despite our requests to do so Network Rail and Transport for Wales have as of yet been unable to identify the affected individuals and your union is pressing for this to happen as soon as possible to be provide maximum certainty and security for our members. The Regional Organiser has now confirmed with Network Rail that this process will commence in early 2019. The union has been told that as far as Network Rail were concerned that it would not affect them or staff for another year (at least) but RMT has stated that they should consider an early update to staff on the possible options in years time. The union is now being briefed on the process and this will continue as more information and details become available. The union will also be holding regular meetings with Network Rail and Transport for Wales to monitor developments and to ensure staff are given information well in advance of proposed changes.
As a result of RMT lobbying we have received a commitment from both Transport for Wales & KeolisAmey that cleaning grades will be bought in-house, either to Transport for Wales or more likely as part of KeolisAmey. I will write again with further details when these are to hand.
Rail Catering Grades
Again, as a result of RMT lobbying, staff employed previously by At Seat Catering, a subsidiary company of Arriva and attached to Arriva Trains Wales, will be transferred in house, probably to Transport for Wales. Transport for Wales have stated that this will take place within a year. In the meantime, however, because Transport for Wales does not yet have the capacity to absorb this work, the contract has been taken over temporarily by Rail Gourmet for a year. Regrettably this company has wasted no time in seeking to extract maximum benefit for itself over the next year in areas which will be at the expense of our members terms and conditions. The Union has declared a dispute in this area and Rail Gourmet members are being written to in more detail on this subject.
Train Maintenance Grades
It has recently been confirmed by KeolisAmey and Transport for Wales that the train manufacturing contracts with Stadler and CAF have been agreed with the Train builders as ' Builder / maintain ' type contracts. Even though the new trains are not due into service until 2020/21 we understand because of contractual requirements it had to be signed off now. This has come as result of the decision by the Welsh Government not to purchase new trains (because they say they were constrained by UK Treasury Rules) but instead to go for lease arrangements.
RMT’ position is that train maintenance should remain in - house with KeolisAmey and where possible bought in house where it is already outsourced. RMT has already won some protections outlined at the beginning of this letter in respect of no compulsory redundancies and maximising employment within Wales but we have also made clear we are opposed to train maintenance staff currently employed by KeolisAmey being transferred to Stadler and CAF. Discussions are ongoing and I have written to Welsh Transport Minister stating the RMT view in these matters and seeking a meeting. I have emphasised that with other core aspects of the new franchise the Welsh Government’s policy direction and assurance has been to bring or keep work in-house and it is unfair to treat loyal and skilled train maintenance workers less favourably than other staff on the franchise and to do so would be against the spirit of the assurances we have received from the Welsh Government. The union is continuing to progress our concerns in this area.
In another victory for RMT lobbying the Welsh Government have agreed that there will be a safety critical guard on every train.
Station Staff and Ticket Office Staff
There have not been any developments with respect of Station and ticket office but the First Minister has given an important commitment to work constructively with RMT around our aspirations for ticket office and station staff.
I will keep members advised of developments.