The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said on Monday morning (3 October) that a strike by its members on Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) was ‘solid’, although the company has said it will run a full timetable.
The RMT is holding a 24-hour strike over job cuts, working conditions and safety, claiming that up to 200 jobs could be lost.
General secretary Mick Cash said the union would be ‘compiling a dossier for the safety authorities detailing breaches of normal working and safety procedures’ after VTEC had brought in managers from across the country what in he called a ‘scabbing operation’.
He said: ‘RMT members are solid and united in support of the action in defence of jobs and safety on Virgin East Coast this morning and the trade union movement salutes them. Pickets are out at all key locations.
’If the company had put half the effort into resolving this dispute that they have piled into their scabbing plans we could have sorted the core issues that led to this strike. The union will be taking part in further talks later this week.’
VTEC said: 'The safety of our customers is paramount and every train will be dispatched by a trained manager. We would not run a normal service if it, in any way, put our customers at risk.'
Its managing director, David Horne, said last week that its timetable would be unaffected. He said: ‘The changes we are making are part of the customer-centric revolution we have planned for the east coast. 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 walk-outs, this strike will cost RMT members pay for no reason, and we urge the union to rejoin us around the negotiating table.’
Separately, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) has set the RMT an ‘immutable deadline’ of noon on Thursday (October 6) to agree to its 8 point-offer on the dispute over the role of guards/conductors on Southern services, to which it has added a lump sum payment of £2,000 to all conductors.
GTR has also invited Mr Cash to ‘urgent face-to-face talks with them directly or through ACAS’.
The company said it has launched ‘a major public information campaign to inform passengers of its offer’. However, the BBC reported on Monday morning that GTR’s attempts to get passengers to tell the RMT how they feel about ongoing strikes appears to have backfired, with passengers making unfavourable comments on social media.