In March, London Midland announced plans to cut 122 full-time and eight part-time jobs; the number could rise to 300+. Opening hours will decrease in almost every ticket office; some will close altogether. We hear that smaller stations such as Apsley and Tring and will be entirely unstaffed.
When left unstaffed, these stations are already targets for vandalism. Staff regularly hear reports that ticket machines have been smashed up for the money inside. Staff from the next station are put in the dangerous position of being sent along the line to sort out the vandalism. Stories like these, and worse, will become more common if the stations are unstaffed altogether.
Euston mainline rail terminal is not facing job cuts. But staff will be put under increased pressure. In the rush hour, train carriages are so crowded the guard can’t get through the trains. Imagine a hundred people descending on the excess fare window at the other end. The terminals are busy and understaffed enough as it is!
The word around the company is that no-one’s job is safe. During recent negotiations with the unions on pay, management were subtly suggesting that the workers had better not push too hard as they are lucky to have a job at all!
It’s the same story everywhere. Packed trains carrying record numbers, staff coping with more pressure than ever.
London Midland has received over £260m in subsidies since 2007. London Midland’s owner, Govia (the partnership between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis) operates 30% of Britain’s rail network. It also owns Southern, Gatwick Express and Southeastern. Go-Ahead posted a pre-tax profit of £50.7m for the second half of 2010.
Yet the company rewards its staff with job cuts and a climate of uncertainty! It shows again that economic justifications for recession-time cuts are nothing but eyewash. The bosses are using the recession as a pretext to make organisational changes on their terms. They want the smallest workforce and maximum profit possible. For workers, the recession sharply highlights that the bosses’ interests are fundamentally opposed to ours.
These cuts will also hit passengers, especially those with mobility needs. Both unions must continue their high-profile campaigns to get the public on-side. Centro, the regional transport organisation, politicians and Passenger Focus have all objected to the plans. The public consultation process drew in 1800 objections.
While we proudly defend our jobs, terms and conditions, we also care about the service we provide for the public. If it comes to taking industrial action on this issue, London Midland cannot claim to care most for customers’ needs; our campaign is to protect services as well as jobs!
It is important that our reps, and our national unions, lead a real fight against these job cuts, rather just negotiating terms of defeat. Our representatives must be clear that an attack on jobs in some locations is an attack on the workforce as a whole. Anyone based in an area not losing jobs in the current attack should refuse to believe that they can live with this jobs cull. It will be your turn next!
RMT and TSSA have so far been united in their opposition. Continued unity will keep the campaign strong.
RMT has indicated that industrial action is on the horizon if it did not receive satisfactory assurances that there will be no compulsory redundancies and that processes will be adhered to for the reduction of ticket office opening hours. Perhaps that will be the best outcome we can hope for. But surely at the outset we should set our sights higher with the simple demand: no job cuts! Voluntary redundancies are still bad: they mean fewer jobs on the employment market for the rising number of unemployed, increased workload for the staff who remain, and a worse service for passengers.
The demand ‘no job cuts’ would protect staffing levels and the level of service for customers. We should make the most of public support and go into this fight with confidence.