17 May 2016
RMT Press Office
Virgin East Coast slammed for "blatant provocation" as RMT gears up for fight over cuts to jobs and services
RAIL UNION RMT today slammed VTEC for “deliberate and outrageous” provocation as it emerged that the company are secretly training up a scab army recruited from across the country to breach the rules and take on the jobs of current train managers and on-board crew. The union has learnt that VTEC have been operating empty trains on East Coast routes to train up “volunteers” from management and other grades hauled in from all corners of the UK in preparation for possible strike action over massive cuts being planned to jobs and services across the franchise – thought to be linked to major financial losses by the company since it took over the service from the highly successful public sector operation.
RMT has not had the cuts plans confirmed formally as yet by the company but the union believes that they involve the following:
- Closure of Travel Centres – threatening job losses and a wholesale undermining of the quality of service to the travelling public.
- Station Restructuring – threatening to axe and alter current job profiles and hammer the services available to passengers, particularly those requiring individual support and assistance, and undermining the safety culture on these long-haul routes.
- Cuts to On Board Staff – potentially ripping up agreements with the union to protect the current role of the guard/train manager and again seriously undermining the safety of staff and passengers alike on these inter-city services.
- Engineering and Depot Staff – threatening jobs and conditions of the staff charged with the safe maintenance and delivery of the fleet.
- Management and Supervisory job cuts – further job losses threatened
- Strike Breaking – recognising the angry reaction of staff to these savage plans the company are already mapping out an expensive, national scabbing operation to undermine any future industrial action.
The union has been seeking serious talks with the company on the plans – which are now an open secret – but instead VTEC have moved straight onto a war footing before the due process of consultation with reps has even begun.
RMT General Secretary, Mick Cash said:
“There is continuing speculation that Virgin/Stagecoach seriously overbid for this franchise when they snatched it away from a highly successful public sector operation that was delivering for the British people both in terms of services and finances. There are strong rumours in the industry that VEC may be losing up to a million pounds a week.
“Now it is becoming clear that in response to the financial crisis, and in order to maintain profits, they are gearing up an unprecedented package of cuts and attacks on the workforce – cuts that they know would be fought wholesale by the unions with every tool at our disposal. It is now also clear that they have moved straight onto a union busting war-footing, training up a scab army in secret in an act of provocation that makes a mockery of the negotiating process.
“RMT is demanding answers from VEC, we want to know if the cuts proposals that have come to our attention are accurate, and if they are we want an immediate assurance that they are being withdrawn and will not be formally tabled again at any point in the future.
“If those assurances are not forthcoming the union will take these matters into dispute and will kick off a major political, public and industrial campaign to prevent these attacks on staff and passengers alike on a franchise that has already failed twice in private hands.”