RMT survey of Avanti staff

RMT survey of Avanti staff

8 December 2022

RMT Press Office:

On third Anniversary of taking over West Coast, Avanti staff survey says company has no hope of delivering improvements and has lied to Parliament.

As Avanti mark their third anniversary on the West Coast mainline, RMT has revealed that the troubled operators’s staff have no confidence that much lauded December improvements can be delivered and believe the company has lied to Parliament about the problems on their line.

RMT members were surveyed over 5 days and over 1,000 members responded, condemning the company in overwhelming numbers and making it clear that they have no confidence that the management can turn things around in December. Staff, most of whom worked for Avanti’s predecessor, pointed to chronic understaffing and incompetent and hostile management attempts to run the service on the cheap as the key issues underlying the collapse of good will. Crucially, they also accuse the company of lying to Parliament in claiming that it had no problems at all before July 2022.

Mick Lynch said:

“This survey shows that Avanti have misled Parliament about what’s happened on their services and suggests there’s little hope that they can turn things around in the future. The truth is that the company has mismanaged the franchise from day one, trying to bully staff into running services on a completely under-resourced workforce and it’s now locked in a death spiral. Avanti’s management is toxic to staff who have no trust and confidence in the company. The government’s response so far has been utterly hopeless, giving the company an extension and, it appears, colluding in fabricating a myth that these events are beyond Avanti’s control in order to save the company’s profits. Avanti should be stripped of the franchise now and the West Coast mainline should join the East Coast mainline in the public sector which has run it effectively now for years.”

Executive summary

RMT surveyed its members working for Avanti West Coast over 5 days at the beginning of December 2022. More than 1,000 members of staff at Avanti responded to the survey.
95% of respondents said they did not agree with Avanti bosses who told Parliament that they had no problems before July. Avanti staff told us the problems were far deeper rooted than this and started from the day Avanti took over the West Coast franchise.
More than 90% agreed that working life has got harder in the past three years, that there are not enough staff working for Avanti West Coast and that Avanti West Coast have mismanaged their workforce. More than 80% strongly agreed with all three statements
A recurrent view that comes up is that Avanti are particularly bad and that the real problems date from when FirstGroup and Trenitalia took over. From this point on, there was chronic understaffing, an attack on established Rest Day working pay rates and agreements, incompetent rostering and a hostile attitude toward staff from management.
95% of ticket office staff reported that they were aware ticket offices closing or failing to open dusring their advertised hours as a consequence of understaffing. 70% reported that this had happened more than 10 times in the last 6 months.
96% of staff said that their working life had been negatively affected by Avanti’s actions in reducing their timetable and in short term cancellations
Asked to rate their levels of trust and confidence in management on a scale of 1-100 where 100 was no confidence at all, respondents’ average response was 90/100.
Avanti staff have no confidence in the company’s claims that it will deliver improvements in December. 22% were not very confident and 70% had no confidence at all.
Avanti West Coast have completely lost the trust and confidence of their staff. Problems began almost immediately they took over the franchise as they lost staff and failed or refused to replace them, presumably to manage down staff costs. Instead they attempted to force existing staff to work longer shifts and cover more work.
Staff goodwill has completely collapsed and staff view Avanti’s management as being toxic. It will be impossible for Avanti’s managers to rebuild this trust.
Avanti have misled Parliament about the problems on their lines in an attempt to extract taxpayers’ money to which by rights they should not be entitled through a shady contractual manoeuvre aimed getting their cancellations designated as a force majeure event. The signs are that the government may be complicit in this duplicity as it persistently repeats the line that Avanti’s problems are due to unprecedented, sudden actions by its staff. If this happens it will be little more than a grubby scam on the taxpayer.
The West Coast mainline should join the East Coast mainline in public ownership, under the Operator of Last Resort. This is a vital precondition to rebuilding staff goodwill and trust and confidence in management.

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