Guards on Central Trains are continuing their campaign against the imposition of a computerised rostering system called Crewplan.
The dispute began over Christmas when RMT held 3 strike days, which called for improved holiday working payments as well as protesting about Crewplan. The strikes were solid, showing management that we were serious about the fight.
The company made a reasonable offer on holiday payments, but tied acceptance to dropping our case against Crewplan - so RMT could not agree.
Local reps threw out an ACAS agreement, and were incensed by management strong-arm tactics which included threatening to sack a member. The company halted all release for reps and suggested that senior conductors should get new company council reps as the present ones weren't acting in members' best interests! This is laughable; workers and bosses have mutually-opposed interests, so reps who get this much abuse from management are obviously doing just what they should be doing: fighting the bosses and listening to their members!
The reps' meeting called for a ballot for action short of strike, trying to maintain unity in the grade after some guards said they did not want to lose any more money through strikes. The new ballot would allow guards to refuse to collect fares, perform duties at other depots or work overtime and rest days.
After the successful ballot result, the company hit back by saying that refusing to collect fares would be met with a 50% pay cut pay and not providing cover would see guards sent home without pay. Management has also said that there will now be no overtime and rest day working for guards - which makes you wonder how they are going to run a full train service.
The icing on the cake was when manage-ment sent a gloating letter to every guard telling them assistant ticket examiners had received commission on their ticket sales whereas guards had been just short of their revenue collection target and that if they had not taken strike action they would probably have got the commission. To this the guards have responded with a hearty two-fingered salute and renewed their strike action!
Meanwhile, ASLEF are not sanctioning rest day working from 24 February, although this is not to do with Crewplan. ASLEF's position on Crewplan has been opportunist: they verbally oppose the imposition and thus the breaking of agreements but are willing to benefit from the extra rest day working now available because the Crewplan computer cannot do its job properly. As for the minority of drivers in RMT, repeated calls for RMT to ballot them have fallen on deaf ears.
The intransigence and bloody-mindedness of management suggests that we are in for a long struggle. ASLEF should come into the dispute, and RMT should ballot its drivers. We should strike on days that hurt business ie. weekdays, rather than on weekends and public holidays, as the action so far has been.
The campaign should also reach the travelling public. RMT has not yet produced leaflets explaining our dispute to the public, even though it has AGM policy to do so.
Banaghan and gang are going all out on this one: they want to win. Why else would they risk such a dispute? Maybe Crewplan would free them from costly negotiations over local agreements when transferring staff into the new franchise. With Crewplan in place, National Express might be able to deliver the lowest-cost bid.
Our campaign should also put pressure on those who will make the decision on who gets the new franchises when Central Trains is split up in November. The current managers and their masters at National Express are not fit to run a railway.
Most important, as management play tough and work out their most effective strategy - so should we.
STOP PRESS: RMT has called off the strike planned for 24th February. Head office seem to have dressed up what look like concessions from the company to hide their embarassment while they try to kill off the dispute at ACAS again.
Off The Rails has produced bulletins during this dispute and will continue to do so. Read and download them here or contact OTR for copies. Central Trains workers are welcome to contribute to future issues.