... And Recruit New Starters
At the end of April, RMT announced 3 days of strike action on consecutive Saturdays by guards working for East Midlands Trains after a ballot narrowly voted in favour of industrial action.
Guards were angry that the company would not give them a decent payment for agreeing to committed Sunday working, that the company planned to use managers and other grades to guard trains on Sundays and that they were going to impose a new grade of senior conductor with inferior conditions (including committed Sunday working), outside existing negotiated structures.
Prior to, and continuing ever since, this announcement, EMT bosses have been scouring the mess rooms at Boston, Lincoln, Norwich and Nottingham trying to erode support for the strike and hoping to convince individual guards to sign agreements which would contract them to committed Sundays. Even when RMT went with them to ACAS and agreed to only issue joint communiques on the issue, EMT continued harassing guards both face-to-face and by letter.
This just shows the contempt they have for the union and ACAS. At that meeting they told the guards’ reps that they had nothing new to say and that they should go back to their members and get some different proposals! At the end of May there will be a further meeting at ACAS. EMT’s tactic seems to be to keep RMT talking just long enough to train up the scab managers and recruit the committed Sunday new starters.
At a members’ meeting in Nottingham, it was decided to take the initiative by offering EMT a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Mindful that they have demonstrated no previous interest in settling the dispute fairly, this will almost certainly result in the strikes being put back on. The priority now is for RMT to convince the waverers that this attack is worth fighting against and that the extra commission for Sunday working is not good enough. Guards who don’t see a problem in having other grades doing their work need to be convinced of the seriousness of the situation.
For a start, commission as a payment for accepting committed Sundays is a joke. On its website, EMT has already announced the introduction of Smartcard technology in the Nottingham/Derby commuter areas and plans to have retail outlets at Syston and Sutton Parkway will further reduce on-train ticket sales and with it commission. In any case with rampant short-forming of trains, it will be impossible to get through the train to collect the revenue!
Some guards who never work Sundays don’t see this as an issue for them. As one guard put it, “RMT is striking over the wrong issue.” When asked what the right issue would be, he responded ‘pay’. But if bosses get away with having other grades working our trains on Sundays, it is pretty obvious that if we strike on any other issue they will use these scabs to break that strike and our strongest weapon will have been neutralised. In addition, with all these managers having ‘guards competency’ they will need to maintain it and this will be done by taking Rest Day Working that would normally be done by real guards.
... STOP PRESS ...
RMT has set new strikes in June after calling off our May strikes.
Talks at ACAS failed to resolve the dispute as EMT predictably refused to back down. Off The Rails sometimes wonders why we go through this charade. There might be a case for calling off or postponing strike if you win real victories in the dispute, but calling off action just for talks simply loses our momentum. This practice should stop - we are more than capable of talking and striking at the same time.
RMT EMT Connect senior conductors will now strike on Saturdays 7, 14 and 21 June - unless, of course, the company backs down or the union calls it off again.