By Patrick Hardie, Industrial Relations Editor.
The RMT has today confirmed that ballots for strike action and action short of strike will begin this week following breakdown in talks on three major London Train Operators:
First Great Western
South West Trains.
Ballot papers will be sent to members this week with the votes closing on thursday 19th July. With a legal notification period of 7 days the earliest legal strike for all three companies could be 27th July. This is the date of the Olympics Opening Ceremony.
The ballots come as RMT confirmed that it has now concluded substantial recognition and reward agreements on First Capital Connect, C2C, Chiltern, East Midlands Trains and East Coast to add to the industry benchmarked deals on Heathrow Express, Virgin, Network Rail, DLR and London Underground amongst others.
First Great Western recently said that the ballot was “money for nothing on a grand scale for an extra 9 trains”. This statement was removed from the FGW website and reappeared some few days later. First Capital Connect offered either a payment of £500 or £26per hour and yet it’s sister company cannot even match that with its latest rumoured offers.
Greater Anglia has only recently taken over the NXEA franchise and already it has slipped to be the worst train operator in the UK in the latest National Passenger Survey, even worse then First Capital Connect which ‘held’ that position for some while.
South West Trains claims that an agreement was made regarding Olympics Payments at the last pay talks and as such no extra payments will be made.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
“With deals now concluded that recognise the massive additional effort of the workforce on the vast majority of transport operators it is a scandal that SW Trains, Greater Anglia and First Great Western have decided to try and force their staff to work longer and harder for little or nothing in return.
We all want the Olympics to be a success but we cannot have fairness on some train companies and a slap round the face on others.
It is rail staff who will be sticking in the extra work required to deliver the transport challenge of the Olympics, these train companies will be making a killing from the extra passengers and services and they should have the decency to match the best practice on payments across the rest of the industry.
RMT is campaigning for a massive yes vote in these ballots and we remain available for meaningful talks to resolve these disputes mindful that the clock is ticking down.”
A South West Trains spokesman said:
“We are disappointed the union has decided to press ahead with this unnecessary ballot. We negotiated a deal with the RMT in good faith and we have stuck to it. We want the union to be 100% clear about our position: we will not be renegotiating our agreement that already covers Olympic arrangements.
This means we will not be paying more money and that situation will not change even if RMT members vote for a strike or other industrial action. We would urge union members to think carefully about the issues before they decide which way to vote. Industrial action, whether it is a strike or anything else, will be unnecessary and will not change anything.
The country does not want to see any disruption or threat of it during the Olympics. It should be a showcase event for the nation. We will always support our staff to help them deliver the best service they can for customers and we will ensure that happens during the Games.”
Great Western have told us that the press statement from 22nd June 2012 remains unaltered:
“We have just received official notification from the RMT about their intention to ballot, so it is difficult to comment specifically at this stage. However, we are willing to discuss their concerns with a view to reaching a successful conclusion.
On top of the 1,500 timetabled services we run every day, on average we will be running fewer than 9 additional scheduled services a day during the Games – that’s an increase of just over 0.5 per cent.
The vast majority of our staff will come to work during the Olympics and do what they do every other day of the year. We have many major events and extremely busy times of the year on our network, and we expect the Olympics to be no different.
For clarity, the RMT is asking for extra money for all on-board and stations staff in the company working during the Olympics from as far and wide as Cornwall, South Wales and the North Cotswolds, regardless of whether they are affected by additional Olympics passengers or not. Quite simply, this is ‘money for nothing’ on a grand scale when we should be celebrating this great national event.”
A Greater Anglia spokesperson said:
We’re disappointed that the RMT Union is intending to organise a ballot. We will continue to progress the constructive discussions that are taking place over this matter with the RMT and our staff representatives.”
More when we get it.