Rail workers ignored in rush for franchise

Rail workers ignored in rush for franchise

17 January 2014

The first major rail franchise competition after the government promised a fresh start for railways has effectively removed job security from thousands of rail workers.

Unite and sister unions are now calling on Labour to speak up for the threatened workers since neither the Department for Transport (DfT), nor any of the rail companies will say what will happen to their jobs, terms of employment or pensions.

The confusion comes in the wake of the botched West Coast mainline tender in 2012, which led to a shake-up of the rail franchising system. One of the first franchises up for tender is the new Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) operation, which is the largest ever rail franchise.   

“The government has promised better services and better value-for-money from the railways for taxpayers, but they haven’t given a thought to rail workers,” said Unite officer, Hugh Roberts.

Unite members at maintenance depots in Bedford and Hornsey fear for their jobs as Siemens may opt to recruit its own staff to maintain new Thameslink trains from 2016. The Thameslink section of the new franchise comes into operation at the end of September 2014, with the Southern portion added in July 2015.  

“The creation of the new TSGN franchise threatens the job security of thousands of workers. Many are likely to be transferred to a new employer and some of them could be made redundant after that. No one will say whether their terms and conditions will be properly protected under TUPE regulations,” said Unite’s Hugh Roberts.

“What makes the situation farcical is that the DfT will not talk about the impact of the new TSGN franchise on the staff. The Transport Secretary even rebuffed Tory MP Richard Fuller who wanted to make representations on behalf of his Bedford constituents.

“Union members need the Labour shadow transport team to speak up for them,” he said. Unite is working to protect jobs and workers’ terms and conditions alongside TSSA, RMT, ASLEF, and ACTU.

Five companies have made bids for the colossal TSGN franchise, with the decision expected in May. The franchise stretches from Peterborough, Bedford and Cambridge through London to Brighton, Hastings and Southampton. It includes the Gatwick Express and the £6 billion Thameslink project, which is due to be completed in 2018.

For more information, contact Hugh Roberts