Update: The rail union RMT has confirmed a programme of three 24-hour strikes on Virgin Trains East Coast, including one on Bank Holiday Monday, 29 August.
Members will walk out from 03:00 BST on 19, 26 and 29 August for 24-hours and take action short of a strike by refusing to book any overtime for 48 hours from 27 August, in a row over cuts, work conditions and safety.
Virgin Trains East Coast could be the latest rail franchise to be hit with strikes after the RMT union voted 84% in favour of industrial action over ‘a threat to jobs, working conditions and safety’.
The union claims that nearly 200 jobs across the franchise are threatened by cuts, and made accusations that the proposed staffing changes came about because the franchise was losing money.
‘RMT is aware of talk within the industry that Virgin/Stagecoach seriously overbid for the East Coast franchise' the union said, and suggested it was 'losing a fortune every week'.
Virgin trains declined to comment on the accusation but said it would run a full timetable in the advent of any RMT strike action. The company added the staff changes would have no impact on safety and would result in no compulsory job losses.
Reports of financial difficulties on the line date back to at least the spring.
In a statement, Virgin Trains said it is making changes to 'customer-facing roles which will see a single person take responsibility for the customer experience on our trains'.
David Horne, managing director for Virgin Trains on the east coast said: 'With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during any action, we urge the RMT not to call a strike which will cost its members pay for no reason, and to rejoin us around the negotiating table.'
RMT has called for assurances on six main points:
- Redeployment and protection agreements will be adhered to at all times.
- There will be no compulsory redundancies.
- A safety-critical guard will be present on every train.
- Confirmation of establishment staffing numbers.
- TUPE to be adhered to
- Rates of pay to be protected
The union is now considering its next move and said it remains available for talks.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Long-standing agreements between our two organisations dictate that the company must negotiate with RMT, as a recognised trade union to those agreements, yet the company say these changes are a consultative process. That is simply not true. Any changes to staff terms and conditions are negotiable matters.
'The company have chosen to treat the negotiations as a game thus far, merely going through the motions of pretending they did not yet know what their plans entailed. To behave like that is to treat the union and its members with pure contempt.’
Destinations on the line include London, Aberdeen, Inverness and Hull.