Train drivers working for East Midlands Trains (EMT) have taken 6 days of strike action in the past 3 weeks to try and prevent the company from reducing contributions to their pension fund.
In 2010 an actuarial valuation revealed a funding level of 99.1% and a prediction that if the Joint Contribution Rate (the money paid into the fund by management and workers) stayed the same, then the fund would probably move into surplus.
With the current financial turmoil, drivers are rightly concerned that any reduction now will leave a deficit in 2013. The company has been asked to provide an interim valuation to confirm that the fund is in surplus now but has refused. In other companies where recent valuations have shown actual surpluses union members have voted to reduce the contributions. EMT has also been unwilling to commit to make up any shortfall if the reduction goes ahead. Drivers are suspicious that, as 2013 is the end of the franchise, EMT are looking to make a fast buck at our expense before they give up or lose the franchise.
So far, only members of the drivers’ union ASLEF have taken action. The other unions organising on EMT, RMT and Unite, are in the process of balloting their members on this issue. ASLEF will probably wait for the results of those ballots before deciding what to do next. If the other unions vote for action (and this could be a proxy for all the other issues we currently have with the company including victimisation of reps, pay, rosters and the car park levy), it will be difficult for EMT to maintain their strike day skeleton service if different grades strike on different days. It would be feasible for instance that the drivers could strike one day, other train crew the following day and platform staff the day after that. Coupled with a possible week long strike by train maintainers, which would see trains gradually becoming unfit for service, there is a good chance we could win this one quickly. If we don’t get the results, ASLEF could call token strikes to keep the ballot live and then have another push during the Olympics, which would give the dispute national publicity.
As we are always being told to save more for our pensions, the company would be shown up to be the pension raiders that they are, and we can rightly portray ourselves as the responsible party trying to maintain them.