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From The Socialist newspaper, 4 January 2007

Railworkers fight for quality of life

SENIOR CONDUCTORS working for Central Trains voted in two ballots to strike on 1 January 2007 and not to work on Christmas eve and New Year's eve 2006. They are not obliged to work on Sundays so these were more refusals to work than strikes.

An ASLEF member

There are two issues - the introduction of a centralised and computerised rostering system and the payments offered for working the two Sundays.

In the ballot on rostering 231 voted for action, 37 against, on payments 177 for action, 68 against.

The centralised and computerised rostering system is being phased in at smaller depots for drivers and senior conductors and simply does not work. Staff are supposed to fax or phone requests for annual leave, shift swops, hospital appointments and so on to a central place but faxes are not responded to and phones go unanswered. So you don't know if a day off you have asked for is agreed or not.

The system has failed to operate smoothly at small depots and if introduced at the larger depots will cause chaos. Management appear determined to press ahead despite these problems.

On the payments for Christmas and New Year's eve, drivers were offered 10 hours at double time, around 365 for each day. This was accepted.

Senior conductors were offered the same deal which would be 240 per day, this was declined. Management failed to grasp that for many workers the chance to have some clear free time at Christmas and New Year is too good an opportunity to miss, especially as most of us would normally work all bank holidays, starting at our normal shift times, even though the number of early travellers on bank holidays can be counted on one hand.

No trains ran on Christmas eve, so management sent a letter to senior conductors' homes, giving a hotline number to call if they wanted to work.

Managers were used as substitute senior conductors but even management's claims of a 25%-33% service were so patchy and unreliable as to be useless to customers.

Central Trains senior conductors have demonstrated that railworkers are not only interested in headline pay figures but also in quality of life. More battles look likely, similar action was only narrowly averted at Midland Mainline at the last moment.

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Railworkers fight for quality of life


 

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