Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/621/9401
Doncaster - Jarvis's vicious sackings...
Sacked Jarvis worker BILL RAWCLIFFE, rail union RMT York and District branch secretary, convenor for Jarvis Fast Track and a TUSC general election candidate, spoke to Elaine Brunskill
BILL TOLD me he was watching Sky News on 25 March when it was announced that Jarvis had gone into voluntary administration. "Lads started asking me what was going on. You can imagine - my phone was going non-stop."
Bill was told Deloitte had been appointed as administrators. When asked what that meant and would people get paid, no watertight guarantees were given. But workers were being advised to keep working.
"I pointed out that it was totally unsatisfactory that staff were working trackside, with trains hurtling past at 120mph, whilst in a state of shock, confusion and worry. Their minds were on what their future was. The Jarvis HR guy completely agreed with me, but said it wasn't in his power to do this. Deloitte would be doing this - but we had no contact with them."
The following day Bill again tried to get guarantees about workers' wages. By 2pm there was a phone call from HR giving assurances that everyone would be paid and everyone should work as normal. But within an hour he received another call saying all work for the weekend had been cancelled.
It wasn't until Tuesday that the union was invited to 'pop in' to speak to a senior partner from Deloitte. The meeting lasted around 15 minutes: "Very polite, but then we were shown the door". At the meeting the administrators said they wanted Network Rail to pay upfront for work done, and a guarantee for staff wages for the coming four weeks. Bill said: "We were told if Network Rail rejected this, then compulsory redundancies would be the most likely outcome."
On Wednesday around 50 Jarvis workers were waiting outside the office. Bill confronted Deloitte, demanding a statement. Eventually he was given a five minute meeting with them, where he was told that all the rail staff would be sent redundancy notices, and there was no money available to Deloitte.
Rebuff from MPs
"Everyone was in a state of shock. We had no job, no back pay. Initially Deloitte said they would try and get us 50% of what we were owed - which they didn't. There was just a numb silence. We couldn't believe it - the work was still there."
Bill described how news networks filmed the office workers, with all their personal belongings in cardboard boxes, leaving the building - you could see they were dumbfounded. "The lads weren't even allowed into the depot to empty their lockers."
Approaches were made to MPs, and to transport secretary Lord Adonis, asking that the government intervene, utilising the Railways Protected Companies act. This would have protected Jarvis workers' jobs, wages and pensions. These approaches were rebuffed.
Jarvis workers have now learned that Network Rail intend to carve up the Jarvis contracts between Babcock Rail, Balfour Beatty, and Amey/Colas. These companies are all arguing that the workers were made redundant before they were awarded contracts, so their wages, terms and conditions are not protected.
This will have a devastating impact on workers, who now face an uncertain future. "One of the lads in my gang is just starting out. He's got a young child, a £900 a month mortgage - no job, no money. But the work's still there, we should still be doing it. It is so distressing."
Former Jarvis workers who have been going for interviews, to sign on with agencies to do the work they used to have, are being told they have to register and pay a fee for a drugs and alcohol test, pay for overalls, and sign a disclaimer saying they won't request travel time.
The disclaimer will mean they can be sent anywhere in the country to do a 12 hour shift. They could be travelling for hours before doing a 12 hour shift. Bill pointed out: "This is courting disaster. When the Clapham disaster happened, fatigue was a major factor."
...and workers' fightback!
WHILE BILL Rawcliffe was being interviewed about the atrocious way Jarvis workers had been thrown on the scrapheap, he received a phone call from his local MP Ed Miliband. Miliband seems rattled by the announcement that Bill is standing against him, as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate for Doncaster North in the general election.
In a heated discussion, Bill invited Ed Miliband along to the next day's demo against the job losses - he declined! Bill explained to Miliband: "I'm 53, I've worked on the railways since I was 15. Now I've got no job, no pay."
Reason to stand
He went on to say: "Labour can go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but you say you're powerless with Network Rail - That's enough reason to stand!"
Bill also told us: "When I went to the Jobcentre they asked if I was actively seeking employment. I told them I was standing as an MP. The women just looked at me, wouldn't write that down - it seems that being an MP isn't a proper job in their eyes."
Bill said that sacked Jarvis workers were being made to feel like criminals for being unemployed - but MPs are doing "nowt". He added that if he is elected to parliament: "All I'll take is the same pay as I got as a Jarvis worker".
In The Socialist 21 April 2010:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party editorial
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party election campaign
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party features
Socialist Party workplace news