Three months ago RMT guard reps on Central Trains decided to “suspend” industrial action over the company's new computerised rostering system, Crewplan. Click here for background.
A second deal was reached at ACAS under which Central Trains undertook to look into local problems under Crewplan, depot by depot. Union reps on the Company Council were given three weeks to visit depots and collate grievances which are now being considered by a joint working party consisting of reps and managers.
This cannot be considered a victory, since Central Trains had said all along that they would “look at” local problems. The dispute was over the fact that Central Trains had imposed the new rostering system without prior negotiations. The union demand was that Crewplan be withdrawn and then introduced through negotiations. This has not happened.
In the meantime Crewplan has now been introduced for guards at Birmingham New Street and Nottingham (the two biggest Central Trains depots), and drivers will get it in mid June. Guerilla warfare continues against it although in the main action has been taken because of its pernicious effects rather than the fact that it was introduced without negotiations with the unions.
Just recently guards at Birmingham New Street who used to be paid 9¼ hours for a Sunday job even when it was shorter than that took action when this practice was stopped.
Apparently, “the Crewplan computer only pays for the hours worked” (as if they couldn’t program it to honour the previous agreement?). Birmingham guards hit back by not coming to work on a Sunday. They had called a barbecue day (unofficial action, Sundays are voluntary, everybody had a “party” to go to).
While these actions are commendable the official action against Crewplan has ceased. This dispute is not a case of members eager to fight being sold out by officials anxious for a quiet life - in fact management’s campaign of intimidation against the fighting company council reps continues.
Theoretically, as strike action has already been taken, the ballot remains valid indefinitely, but there seems little interest from members in restarting the dispute.
As successful bidders for the new franchises incorporating Central Trains are announced in July, the idea of striking and shaming (through demos and press releases against National Express) has come and gone. If Crewplan can be made to work without too much difficulty for traincrew it is hard to see members being mobilised against it simply because it was imposed and not negotiated.