RMT declares strike dates on Heathrow Express/Connect

RMT declares strike dates on Heathrow Express/Connect

22 April 2014

Geoff Martin

RAIL UNION RMT today confirmed strike action across Heathrow Express in response to a package of multi-million pound cuts which amount to an all-out assault on pay, jobs and safety.

Following a massive nine to one vote for action covering all grades, RMT has instructed Heathrow Express members:

•    Not to book on for any shifts of duty between 03.00 hours on Tuesday 29th of April 2014 until 02.59 hours on Thursday 1st May 2014

RMT members are furious that Heathrow Express plans to re-organise its workforce indicating that, in an attempt to save £6 million over the next five years, some 201 jobs are now placed under threat of redundancy, representing around half of the current workforce. The attack on jobs and working conditions comes as a direct result of the decision of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to cut £600 million from the Heathrow Airport budget over the same period.

The £600 million cut equates to almost exactly the same amount that Heathrow is doling out in dividend payments to its wealthy investors.

RMT has demolished the case for each of the main areas of proposed cuts proposed on Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services:

Cut ONE - Removal of on-board staff on Heathrow Connect service:

•    Passengers will suffer increased anti-social behaviour due to no staff presence.
•    An increased threat of terrorist attack – both HEx & Heathrow Connect are high-profile and high-risk targets.
•    Serious safety concerns over drivers single-handedly having to evacuate the train without assistance.
•    Increased delays for passengers, as drivers will be tasked to deal with passenger alarms and emergencies on their own.
•    Disabled and mobility impaired passengers will have no assistance on board.
•    The reputation amongst passengers of Heathrow Connect as being a “safe” service due to on-board staff will be destroyed.
•    Drivers will have no help in emergency situations like fatalities, injuries or passengers being assaulted.

Cut TWO - Removal of evacuation competency of Heathrow Express on-board staff:

•    This would mean that a HEx train could be run without any on-board staff at all, because the requirement has been rescinded by the cuts plan . HEx passengers pay a premium price for a premium service and expect to get this 100% of the time, not some of the time. These changes are further ripping off the customer in terms of safety and customer service.
•    Drivers are deeply concerned over the prospect of having to evacuate a fully loaded 9 car train without any assistance at all. Drivers see this as blatant disregard for passenger and staff safety.
•    The train driver cannot physically get to the trailing unit in an emergency due the absence of gang-way doors. With no on-board staff with evacuation competency, the passengers are being asked to fend for themselves.

Cut THREE - Extension of Driver Only Operation (DOO):

•    Staff do not see this as being as safe as the current assisted dispatch methods. Drivers have made it clear that passenger safety will be put at risk.

In addition, RMT has warned the public that Heathrow Express may attempt to run a skeleton service through the strike period using scabs without the necessary experience or training and without adequate numbers or the skills to cope with an emergency. The union is alerting the safety authorities to those concerns.

RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT does not buy for a moment the case for handing out savage cuts to Heathrow Express when Heathrow is generating hand-outs to shareholders of over £600 million and when the company has the spare cash to sponsor the USA bid to host the football world cup. Our members have sent the clearest possible message that they are prepared to stand up and fight the cuts and the threat to pay, working conditions, safety and jobs.
“The Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services are dealing with growing demand as the airport expands and the idea that safety and service is going to be sacrificed at the stroke of an accountant’s pen would shame London and leave these high-profile services extremely vulnerable.  The CAA themselves have warned that the staffing cuts are a false economy which will hit revenues as service quality drops through the floor.
“The removal of on board staff, and the driving forwards of Driver Only Operation, would render services inherently unsafe and make evacuation in the wake of an emergency incident or terrorist alert an absolute nightmare.
“The planned axing of jobs, and the associated freezing and hacking back of pay and working conditions, is a kick in the teeth for the staff who have made Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect the success story that they are today. The staff have spoken and it is down to company to halt the cuts plans and start talking seriously about a safe and secure future for this vital London transport link.”

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Tagged with: heathrow express, heathrow connect, strike action, civil aviation authority, caa