17 March 2022
RMT Press Office:
Reports that FirstGroup has been given an 8-year contract to attack staff.
Ahead of further strike action this weekend by conductors on Transpennine Express services, RMT warned today that the interests of passengers are being sacrificed by a government that is hard-wiring profiteering and attacks on staff into its revamped privatisation model as reports indicated that FirstGroup will be awarded an 8 year extension to their National Rail Contract.
On 8th March, the government published a Prior Information Notice indicating that it intends to make an 8 year award to run Transpennine Express companies when FirstGroup’s current contract expires in April 2023. Under the terms of its new National Contract, the winning company will be expected to push through ‘workforce reform’, thin coding for attacks on staff numbers and terms and conditions. The new National Contracts also require the companies to agree ‘dispute handling plans’ with the Secretary of State
The new National Contracts also guarantee risk-free profits to the companies involved and if reports that FirstGroup have been awarded the 8 year contract are true it raises the prospect that the company will suck around £40 million in dividends out of the franchise over the period of the award.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said,
“If these reports are true, FirstGroup will be laughing all the way to the bank at passengers’ expense, safe in the knowledge that the government has got its back, guaranteeing profits and provoking and bankrolling a series of totally unnecessary industrial disputes. This is not enterprise, it’s state-sponsored looting at the expense of heroic keyworkers and the region’s passengers. We don’t want 8 years of disputes, but RMT members won’t sit back and let these corporate spivs and their government backers torch their terms and conditions to fund their greed."
Notes to editors:
- The DfT’s Prior Information Notice for the Transpennine Express franchise was published on 8 March and makes ‘workforce reform’ a key performance indicator: TransPennine Express rail services: prior information notice - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- As RMT revealed recently, FirstGroup has already paid out dividends worth £30 million in the last year from its rail operations and is awaiting the Secretary of State’s permission to pay out £33 million more: Transpennine Express Conductors strike again on Sunday for pay justice - rmt
- First Group’s February trading update notes that “Our management fee-based rail operations are delivering performance metrics in line with our expectations overall for the second half of FY22. The DfT has confirmed that Avanti and GWR's performance measures were slightly above target for the first six months of FY22, with TPE and SWR's tracking in line with the annual targets under their respective National Rail Contracts 220225 FGP trading update.pdf (firstgroupplc.com)