Industrial disruption grows as more strikes are called

THE RMT has called a series of strikes by train managers on East Midlands Railway in its dispute over the safety of cascaded Class 360 units on the London to Corby service when there is one manager on the 8-car trains, which are formed of two separate four-car units. The union wants a safety-critical member of staff, preferably a train manager, to be in charge of each four-car section.

The walkouts are to be staged on the next eight Sundays, starting on 8 August and continuing until 26 September. In addition, the RMT managers will not work any Class 360 train if the only other crew member is the driver, with effect from 00.01 on 7 August until further notice.

The action is in addition to an existing series of strikes which are being staged by EMR senior conductors in a separate dispute over pay, working conditions and ‘contract issues’.

The RMT said it remained available for talks.

East Midlands Railway told Railnews: ‘The safety of our customers and our staff will never be compromised or put at risk. This strike action by the RMT is completely unwarranted and unjustified.

‘EMR consulted with the RMT for six months before these trains were brought into service and the RMT signed the resulting risk assessment.

‘Every EMR Connect service includes a safety-critical train manager on board – which is an enhancement to the previous 17 years where they have operated in other parts of the country with only a driver. Furthermore, these trains have been in service since May and there has not been a single operational or safety incident due to their method of operation.

‘As a result of this unnecessary action, EMR will be introducing a reduced Sunday timetable for EMR Connect and EMR Intercity services, effective from 8 August.’

The new strikes are the latest in a series of disputes which are threatening train services in many parts of the country this summer.

The longest running dispute is between the RMT and ScotRail, where conductors have been striking every Sunday since 28 March. The cause of the disagreement is pay, and the RMT is protesting that ScotRail drivers who are members of ASLEF were given enhanced pay for rest day working while other grades were not.

The lack of a resolution led to ScotRail ticket examiners, who work mainly in the Glasgow area, joining the Sunday walkouts from 2 May. Although cleaners did not support the all-out strike call, they began an effective work to rule on 13 July, by refusing to work overtime, rest days or in a higher grade until further notice.

ScotRail head of customer operations Phil Campbell said: ‘The RMT’s action is wrong and will have a significant impact as lockdown eases. Industrial action will have no impact on ScotRail’s position on 50 per cent overtime pay increases for no additional hours worked, given the severe financial challenges we face.’

The position has become even more serious since he said that. Gateline staff on ScotRail will be taking industrial action (short of all-out strikes) from 11 August, and TSSA has also warned ScotRail to expect industrial action by its members after a strike vote by conductor team managers, revenue team managers and on-train managers.

Other operators involved in industrial disputes include Caledonian Sleeper, which had to suspend its services when RMT staff went on strike over pay between 15 and 26 June, and where a ban on higher-grade working began on 30 July. A series of strikes is also beginning on 8 August on Hull Trains in a dispute over pensions.

However, the first two strikes which had been called on London Underground on 3, 5, 24 and 26 August, in a dispute over the abolition of the grade of Night Tube train driver, were called off for talks with TfL at ACAS.