Management’s decision to impose a new roster at Bombardier UK is forcing Unite members into a ballot on strike action, and risks bringing one of London’s most popular rail services to a standstill.
Based in South East London’s New Cross Gate, the 39 engineers provide maintenance services to London Overground. Until now they have worked 12 hour shifts around a four days on, four off roster. Management wants to enforce a roster based on 10 hour shifts with claims regarding health and safety considerations misleading, as the existing roster meets regulations. The management’s new roster will leave workers facing disruption to their home and family lives, along with huge increases in the cost of travelling to work. Management has made no offer of compensation, and has refused to consider Unite’s alternative roster proposals.
"Bombardier is being completely unreasonable,” said Unite regional industrial officer Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, “It expects staff to spend more money and more time travelling to and from work more often, for absolutely nothing. In fact the workers will end up spending around £1,000 a year extra on travel because of these changes.”
Unite members are demanding that the current shift pattern remains in place until a new shift pattern can be agreed. In a consultative ballot with a 100 per cent turnout members voted unanimously against the new working patterns, which management have stated will be implemented from 4 March. In response, Unite has served the statutory notice of industrial action ballot on the employer. The ballot will run from 28 February to 12 March. Meanwhile Unite remains open to further negotiations, and members are being advised to reserve their legal rights by registering a protest if the new shift pattern is imposed on 4 March as expected.
London Overground cannot operate without a maintenance crew on standby so, if members vote for strike action, the service will be severely disrupted.
“Bombardier must reconsider these proposals urgently otherwise there is a very real possibility of a strike that would grind London Overground to a halt,” added Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe, “Bombardier needs to abandon these new shifts and get back to the negotiating table, so we can agree a way forward."