By a Central Trains driver
In November 2004 Transport Secretary Alistair Darling announced that Central Trains Train Operating Company would be broken up by May 2006, when its franchise expires. Central’s managers must have thought he said 2005. They seem to have pressed the self-destruct button.
An abuse of the disciplinary procedure has landed them with three days of strike action by ASLEF drivers on 12, 19 and 26 February. RMT is balloting too. A rest day working ban among drivers is already in place. Guards are balloting for action over holiday entitlement. On top of all that, mass union meetings have crippled Sunday services.
In an effort to curb disruption caused by the rest day working ban, management have introduced a reduced service timetable, arbitrarily cancelling some services irrespective of whether drivers are available to drive them or not. This has led to drivers being called off trains for the publicly-announced reason that there is no driver available due to industrial action!
Why has Central’s management launched this concerted attack? Perhaps their agenda can be garnered from a recent admission in a leaked document, that the winding up of the franchise gives management “the ability to ‘break up’ some long running industrial relations centres of influence”, union-busting to you and me. (This was also one of the stated advantages of rail privatisation in the early 90s).
The Strategic Rail Authority has not said that arrangements for 2006 will be carried out under TUPE or that the recent appointment to top positions of two Scotrail managers with bad industrial relations reputations is a cause for concern.
With post 2006 details hard to come by, RMT and ASLEF will initially have to concentrate on maintaining agreements and organisation. A successful defence of these will put us in a good position to deal with whatever the break up throws at us.