Virgin East Coast staff vote to strike

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Virgin East Coast rail workers have voted to go out on strike in a dispute over job cuts, working conditions and safety, the RMT union has said.

Five out of six of those who voted in the ballot backed walkouts and the union said its leaders will now consider their next move.

RMT bosses said its dispute with Virgin Train East Coast has been brewing for months.

The two sides are in dispute over staffing changes, which the company says would have no impact on safety and no compulsory job losses.

The RMT said from day one it has ought, but failed to receive, assurances from the company on job protection issues including no compulsory redundancies, rates of pay and that “a safety-critical guard will be present on every train”.

Ballot papers were distributed to 2,000 VTEC staff last month and the ballot closed on Tuesday, August 9.

The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT will not sit back while nearly 200 members’ jobs are under threat and also conditions and safety are put at risk by a franchise which is clearly in financial trouble.

“RMT is aware that VTEC management are putting out regular propaganda messages to their employees, to justify the company’s attempts to attack job security, terms and conditions of employment and current working practices.

“Long-standing agreements between our two organisations dictate that the company must negotiate with RMT, as a recognised trade union to those agreements, yet the company say these changes are a consultative process.

“The company have chosen to treat the negotiations as a game thus far, merely going through the motions of pretending they did not yet know what their plans entailed. To behave like that is to treat the union and its members with pure contempt.

“Our members will not pay the price for a crisis cooked up in the Virgin boardroom. We will now be considering the massive mandate for action delivered by our members in this ballot and the union remains available for serious talks.”

Virgin Trains responded to the result by saying it would run a full timetable during any RMT strike action.

David Horne, managing director for Virgin Trains on the east coast, said:

“We have worked hard to ensure there are comprehensive contingency plans in place and I want to reassure our customers that the timetable will be unaffected, should any strike go ahead.

“The changes we are making are part of the customer-centric revolution we have planned for the East Coast. We’re already half-way through our complete refresh of our trains with all new interiors being rolled out, and in two years will have our brand-new Azuma trains coming into service. Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition – one that focuses firmly on the customer.

“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during any action, we urge the RMT not to call a strike which will cost its members pay for no reason, and to rejoin us around the negotiating table.”

 

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