Virgin East Coast staff to stage 24 hour strike

The strike action will impact on Virgin Trains East Coast services on 3 October. Picture: Jon Savage

The strike action will impact on Virgin Trains East Coast services on 3 October. Picture: Jon Savage

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Staff on Virgin Trains East Coast will stage a 24 hour strike next week, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced today.

The industrial action, which the union says has been prompted by threats to jobs, working conditions and safety, has been scheduled for 3 October.

The RMT accused Virgin Trains subjecting staff to a “barrage of direct propaganda” and trying to “bulldoze” through a series of measures it claims would put nearly 200 jobs franchise at risk. It said the company is “losing a fortune every week” on the franchise and is now looking to make cuts by targeting workers.

However, Virgin said the strike was being carried out for “no reason” and stressd it would be running a full timetable during the action.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, said: “RMT will not sit back while nearly 200 members’ jobs are under threat and while conditions and safety are put at risk by a franchise which is clearly in financial trouble. We will also not tolerate the cavalier attitude to safety that is now on show as the company mobilises its scab army of managers.

“The union suspended an earlier programme of action when it looked like serious progress was being made in talks but that process has now failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion and we are back into industrial action as a result. We have been shocked at the way the company have led us up the garden path when we entered talks in good faith. Our representatives are rightly angry at this cavalier approach.”

Mr Cash added: “The company have chosen to treat the negotiations as a game up to now, merely going through the motions and playing for time. To behave like that is to treat the union and its members with pure contempt.

“Our members will not pay the price for a crisis cooked up in the Virgin/Stagecoach boardroom. The action is back on and the union remains available for serious talks.”

Virgin Trains said it will run a full timetable during the strike action and rejected the RMT’s claims. It said it was making changes to customer-facing roles which will see a single person take responsibility for the “customer experience,” adding: “This will have no impact on safety, and will result in a better experience for customers.

“Virgin Trains has also given assurances on each point raised by the union at the start of the dispute - such as ruling out any compulsory redundancies as a result of the changes.”

David Horne, managing director for Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “We have worked hard to ensure there are comprehensive contingency plans in place and I want to reassure our customers that our timetable will be unaffected during these walkouts, as well as during any subsequent strikes by the RMT.

“The changes we are making are part of the customer-centric revolution we have planned for the East Coast. We’re already more than halfway through our complete refresh of our trains with all new interiors being rolled out, and in two years will have our brand-new Azuma trains coming into service.

“Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition - one that focuses firmly on the customer.

“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during the walkouts, these strikes will cost RMT members pay for no reason, and we urge the union to rejoin us around the negotiating table.”

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