EWS is being taken over by the German state owned operator DB. At a recent meeting Transnet (the German rail union) briefed ASLEF on the implications for EWS. As Tosh McDonald (ASLEF vice president) reports, any existing management that doesn’t fit in with how Railion (DB’s railfreight group) run things is quickly shown the door. This has then been followed by workforce cuts and reductions in locations.
He complains that the staff that remain after ‘restructuring’ whilst being mainly drivers are expected to increase productivity by having an increased number of duties. This is rich coming from a representative of the union that was quite happy to agree deals on EWS that have seen groundstaff jobs decimated whilst his members got increased pay to do these ‘extra’ duties.
And the signs are that once Railion get involved, further staff reductions will affect drivers. Already ASLEF has announced that there will be no compulsory redundancies following negotiations on EWS’ depot strategy. They will also have no defence when it comes to refusing to do those extra duties required by Railion; they recently signed deals at DRS and Freightliner that have seen drivers performing other duties including sweeping up when there is no driving to be done!
When you think about the way ASLEF has conducted itself with respect to groundstaff jobs it is hard not to indulge in a little scorn at their current predicament. Their actions have certainly had an effect on the morale of the remaining groundstaff at EWS.
Feelings range from “we are lucky to have a job” to a resigned desire for revenge which finds expression in the hope that Railion will clear out hated middle managers. A recent incident highlights this. When a manager, performing groundstaff duties due to lack of staff, hadn’t prepared a train properly and that train went into service, the issue was quietly dropped. On the other hand, a member of groundstaff who was alleged to have committed a breach of safety has been suspended for the last three weeks!
The future doesn’t seem very bright. EWS workers at one depot have seen the introduction of agency workers onto sites that used to be their workplaces. The agency staff work for £6.50/hour and use their own transport in their own time to travel a hundred miles to cover work that the local EWS depot used to cover.