Train workers on West Coast Main Line may strike

Preston Train Station
Preston Train Station
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Rail union RMT is preparing to ballot cleaning staff on Virgin West Coast for industrial action following confirmation of a mass jobs carve-up that would reduce staffing numbers by 15 per cent and leave those remaining facing an “intolerable workload”.

The job cuts come alongside attacks on pay and working conditions.

The announcement by the union comes the day after it announced a ballot for action by catering supply staff on the West Coast Route in a separate dispute over pay.

In the nightmare, complex world of contractors and sub-contractors on Britain’s privatised railways the cleaning services have been contracted out by Virgin to Alstom as part of a facilities contract and Alstom have then, in turn, subbed out the cleaning to Voith Industrial Services.

It is Voith who have now told RMT that they propose to slash 37 whole-time equivalent posts from the staffing establishment – a cut of over 15 per cent in overall staffing numbers.

The cuts hit both on-board cleaners and those who clean and prepare the trains on turn-around at main rail stations

RMT’s executive has expressed its horror and disgust at the plans and has declared a ballot for both strike action and action short of a strike. That ballot is currently being prepared. The union is also fighting a three year pay freeze for staff and the imposition of draconian new terms and conditions without negotiation or agreement.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “It is disgusting that the staff who keep Virgin West Coast trains clean are now themselves being treated like dirt and RMT will fight these job cuts, the imposition of draconian working conditions and the attempt to cast poverty pay in stone for years to come.

“We now have two separate disputes on Virgin West Coast involving both cleaners and catering staff and it is about time that Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin outfit stopped passing the buck and started taking some responsibility for the exploitation and abuse of support staff that is now rife on his services.

“RMT will be calling on passengers, who pay top dollar for the Virgin long-haul routes, to support the staff who slog their guts out in difficult, overcrowded conditions to make the journey as comfortable as possible. They should not be lined up for a kicking by private companies whose sole driver is their own profits and the returns to their shareholders.”