Friday, 11 January 2008

Like a hole in the head

The decision by RMT members on First Great Western’s routes to take industrial action later this month is the very last thing the company or the company’s customers need. That the situation has arisen because of a dispute over something as paltry as the use of management staff on trains will only add to the disappointment felt by those who will be affected.

Although the strike has a legal basis it is completely without logical or moral foundation. The point is that First Great Western is completely within its rights to use whatever resource it requires to manage its operations. So long as the staff it uses are adequately trained and qualified for the job in hand, it really is no one else’s business but the company’s.

It is said that the RMT and its members object to working on Sundays. If that is so then they have one of two options: find another job where this is not a requirement, or negotiate with the company to secure some form of opt-out. If staff manage to secure an opt-out from Sunday working or they decide to call in sick so that they do not have to work, they simply cannot complain when the company makes alternative arrangements. They cannot have their cake and eat it too.

Many passengers wish to travel on a Sunday and because of this First Great Western wants to provide a good level of service in order to generate money. This is a perfectly respectable position and is a perfect example of supply meeting demand.

That the RMT should make such a huge fuss over such a simple matter demonstrates how completely out of touch it, and indeed some of its members are, with the real world. When was the last time you heard of Tesco staff striking because they have to sit behind tills or stack shelves on a Sunday? When was the last time petrol station staff refused to man the pumps on the Sabbath day?

Like it or not we now live in a society which functions almost fully for 7 days a week. The railway is not special and it is not an exception to this. Some people, but by no means all, who work on the railway desperately need to understand that the railway is a service industry. As such, it needs to be responsive to customer demand and to meet customer needs. The railway does not exist to give engineers something to do just as it doesn’t exist to provide railway staff with jobs.

Many people, some secretly some more openly, may be pleased at the RMT’s action as it makes life more difficult for First Great Western; some may be pleased because they think it will add to the pressure for First Great Western to lose its franchise. These people should think again. In this instance, they should come down firmly on the side of FGW which is trying to provide a good level of customer service. And they should condemn outright the bully boy tactics of Bob Crow and his socialist army of sympathisers whose only purpose is to score cheap political points at the expense of First Great Western, their own members and, most importantly, the travelling public.

35 comments:

Tim said...

I don't think that the proposed strike is really about Sunday working. I suspect that it is because many staff (especially those with recent experince of working for other companies like Wessex and Thames) are generally pissed off with how FGW is managing them. I have heard complaints that depot supervisors have been replaced with fax machines for signing on and that drivers can consequntly go for weeks without seeing a manager. This understandably makes them feel undervalued.

Anonymous said...

The fact is it is not just about Sundays but about how FGW calculate establishment figures. This is the very reason that trains are cancelled on a regular basis every day of the week. FGW allow for a certain percentage of their services to be covered by rest day working on any given day. This policy is very dangerous as it assumes staff want to work their days off, that those that do are at the depots where the uncovered turns are, that the staff are available at the right times taking into account rest periods etc. This may be possible in the bus industry where drivers can do another trip on their route which may take an extra hour but you cannot cover another trip from most places to London and back on the end of a days work from most places.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it on train staff DO NOT have to work Sundays -and never have had this compulsion enshrined within their working practices, so if you join a company which then fundamentally changes your working hours on a whim it is not a realistic suggestion to simply 'find another job', why the hell should you/they?

It is due to FGW consistently undermanning their depots, coupled with the fact that overtime is ONLY paid at time plus one quarter -hardly an incentive at the best of times, certainly not on the run up to bank holidays/summer/christmas!
This coupled with the lowest staff morale since Ive been commuting (20 years) means the staff dont want to do FGW any favours either, so pleas of 'cancellations' and 'customer care' from FGW management (whom I should imagine dont work overtime/Sundays/late nights/early mornings or direct with the travelling public) fall on cynically deaf ears.
The RMTs argument was also that they (the RMT/Aslef) did not consider that those managers who were going to be used to replace guards were actually fully trained!
The RMT also had agreements in place saying that the company would NOT use managers except in an emergency to fulfil this role.
Since business necessity due to the above cock ups that can be laid fairly at FGW managements door
can hardly be argued are an 'emergency' then I cant blame the unions for getting upset.
I also believe the strike had a between 80 and 90% yes vote, so it shows the depth of feeling, I hope now the matter is resolved this ridiculous management stance is now over for good?!

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