RAIL PRIVATISATION INVITED TO CUT GUARDS AND STATION STAFF – warns RMT

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rail union RMT warned on Tuesday that the new Integrated Kent Franchise that begins on April 1, 2006 could result in the removal of staff from stations and guards from trains.

The union issued the warning after a detailed study of the Invitation to Tender document it requested from the Department for Transport under the Freedom of Information Act.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: ‘The document reveals information that will be of great concern to passengers and workers alike.

‘We have discovered that bidders were asked not to exclude any extension of Driver Only Operated Trains and to have an industrial relations plan for removing guards from trains.

‘We have also found that the Invitation to Tender required bidders to consider changes to their station staffing policy, when only at the end of last year the government had overruled previous efforts by South Eastern Trains to scrap 100 stations staff jobs.

‘At the height of public concerns for passenger safety and security on trains it is unbelievable that these sorts of cuts are even being considered.’

Crow added: ‘The winner of the Franchise, Govia, will receive over half a billion pounds in public subsidy and they need to come clean on what their intentions are for staffing stations and trains.’

The RMT obtained the Invitation to Tender (ITT) Document after a request made under the Freedom of Information Act.

The RMT request for the information was originally made in February 2005, at the beginning of the tendering process.

The Department for Transport recently sent the RMT the ITT but on the basis that the tendering process was complete.

The RMT says it is still pursuing with the Information Commissioner the principle that the ITT should have been made public knowledge when it was first issued.

It added: ‘A summary of our concerns is detailed below.

‘The RMT will be participating in the Public Services No Private Profit Trade Union campaign launch at 7pm, House of Commons on March 29.’

Reduced Staffing at Stations

Para A2.1.2.3 of the Invitation to Tender (ITT) on Station Staffing says that Bidders should consider changes to ticket retailing policies and procedures as part of their submissions.

The ITT goes on to say that Bidders should be aware that South Eastern Trains is already developing a business case in readiness for the introduction of a more efficient ticket retailing strategy.

In March of 2005 South Eastern Trains produce proposed changes to Schedule 17 of the Ticketing and Settlement Agreement which would have resulted in a cut of around 100 station staff.

The RMT and passenger groups successfully campaigned against the changes and the proposals were withdrawn in November 2005.

The consequences of changes to ticketing retail strategy contained in the ITT could again lead to the removal of staff from stations (SET’s original proposals would have affected 100 jobs).

This is of clear interest to the RMT as an industrial issue.

It is clearly a matter of significant public interest when there has been widespread media and political coverage of lack of staff at stations and consequent security concerns.

This public interest has resulted in a Parliamentary Transport Select Committee Enquiry.

Removal Of Guards From Trains and Traincrew Strategy

Currently Driver Only Operation (DOO) is bound by Strood, Swanley (on the Chatham route) and Sevenoaks (both via Orpington and Bat and Ball) with most services North and West of these locations being DOO.

South and East of these locations including Strood, Gillingham, Swanley – Rochester and Grove Park – Bromley North services run with guards.

Para A2.11 of the ITT says that Bidders should not assume any limit on the extension of Driver Only Operated Trains, except on the CTRL west of Ebbsfleet where an additional person per unit will be required for emergency evacuation in the event of an incident in the long tunnels on this section of the route.

The ITT goes on to say ‘should bidders propose to extend DOO, then their bid must clearly show the cost of any infrastructure or rolling stock enhancement and their industrial relations handling plan’.

Para 4.2.1.2 of the ITT on Traincrew strategy (ie strategy for Guards and Drivers) asks how Bidders view the scope for making efficiency and productivity gains throughout the duration of the Franchise.

As with changes to station staff the consequences of the removal of Guards from trains through the introduction of Driver Only Operations has obvious implications for the safe running of train services which is a matter of public interest.

The explicit reference to an ‘industrial relations handling plan’ is not of only of obvious interest to the RMT but also the general public if the extension of DOO led to industrial relations problems which would obviously affect passenger services.

l Fifty members of the train drivers’ union ASLEF leafleted Paddington Station Tuesday morning to protest at the government’s failure to introduce meaningful corporate manslaughter laws – despite promising they would be introduced before the election of 1997.

The event highlighted the fact that when decisions by senior managers lead to rail accidents, they must be held responsible.

‘Just because they commit their crime in a suit doesn’t make them innocent,’ said union general secretary Keith Norman.

‘Since rail was privatised, senior managers have other priorities besides safety – profits, returns margins – their bonuses.

‘Corporate manslaughter laws will ensure that safety really is the number one issue.’

The leaflets handed out asked rail travellers to write or email the Home Secretary (clarkec@parliament.uk) saying, ‘Eight years ago, you said you were going to introduce a Corporate Manslaughter law. As a rail traveller, I’d like to know when you will do it. I don’t want an excuse. I want a date, please.’

Keith Norman said: ‘This issue will not go away, because ASLEF will make sure it doesn’t.

‘Eight years after promises were made we have had commission and enquiries and committees and statements – but no action.

‘It will be a major step towards rail safety when these laws are enacted.

‘The time for vague promises and statements of intent is over.’

Following the Paddington demonstration, the protestors moved on to leaflet at Marylebone.