8 April 2015
RMT Press Office
RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that it has declared a dispute and is preparing an industrial action ballot on Great Western services after First Group confirmed in a letter to the union that it is laying out the the ground to axe guards and catering services on the new Inter City Express trains being supplied by Hitachi.
The letter, which confirms everything that RMT has been warning of since the union first saw the plans for the new trains, makes it clear that FGW are seeking to impose the following conditions for the operation of Super Express Trains (SETs):
• The Driver will be solely responsible for the operation of the doors on SET trains.
• Although not the normal method of operation, SET services could be operated with the Driver as the only member of staff on board when a Train Manager is not immediately available.
In respect of catering facilities the correspondence confirms that whilst a full kitchen will be provided on all SET trains the intention is to introduce an at seat trolley service in standard class – the “Upstairs/Downstairs” service that the union has been warning of from the outset.
The response from the company wholly fails to address in any way the assurances required by the union and RMT has now made it clear that it will take all necessary measures to defend the interests of its members from the implications of these proposals and fight tooth and nail for both safety and job security.
RMT will now:
• Write to FGW advising them that a dispute situation now exists between our respective organisations.
• Seek an urgent meeting with the company regarding their proposals
• Finalise the preparations of an industrial action ballot
RMT’s demands in respect of the introduction of the new Inter City trains remain the same:
• To keep a safety competent guard on every train –not a diluted customer service role
• To keep full buffet car facilities and catering services
• Maintaining station staffing levels including safety critical station dispatch staff
• No job losses or dilution of current roles or creation of new job roles with inferior terms and conditions
• To bring depot, turn-around and on-board cleaning in-house.
• To maintain the job security of our members working in the current fleet engineering depots where TUPE and the principles of job security apply
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said ;
“RMT has been campaigning for months to fight plans that could lead to the axing of buffet cars, on-board staff and maintenance workers on First Great Western when the new trains arrive, with a series of events in response to the moves which the union has blasted as “ushering in an “Upstairs-Downstairs” service on Inter-City services while British passengers pay the highest fares in Europe.” Over 50 MP’s have now signed the Early Day Motion backing RMT’s position.
“ The company have now made it clear that they are ignoring RMT and are pressing ahead with proposals that will allow for driver only operation and the removal of buffet cars and their replacement by a trolley service only catering facility along with the sacking and reducing of the safety critical operational role of train guards /conductors. That places us straight into a dispute and triggers the preparations for an industrial action ballot.”
“First Group are working hand in glove with this Government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich in introducing an “Upstairs-Downstairs” service on Britain’s long haul rail services which would condemn the vast majority to pay through the nose to travel in rammed-out carriages where the catering trolley is jammed at one end while the elite glide through the country like extras from Downton Abbey . First were recently handed a cash-laden, taxpayer-sponsored contract extension on FGW without any competition and clearly see that as a green light to smash up jobs, safety and working conditions as they milk the deal for all its worth.
“RMT is throwing it’s full resources and industrial and political clout behind the fight to stop this attack on jobs, services and safety arising from the introduction of the Inter-City fleet. The union remains available for talks.”