Trade Dispute Updates for EDF Energy, Stratford Depot - Alstom, Hammersmith and City Depot and Willesden Green Station Group Members

circular logoThis is an official RMT circular - IR/399/09 dated 13th of November 2009, from General Secretary Bob Crow.

RMT is currently in a number of dispute situations with various TfL employers that will necessitate ballots for industrial action. In addition to this there is of course the company wide dispute with LUL itself and I am carrying out the necessary checks for this ballot and hope to be in a position to report on progress next week.

Regretfully, this process has become even more complicated than before following a High Court ruling against us in respect of a recent ballot we conducted amongst our EDF Energy members.

More details on this follow below, but I would say at this stage we are appealing the High Court Decision and we are hopeful of success. But until then, there is now a requirement on us to provide employers with even greater detail of our members’ employment categories that we have up to now and it is this that is giving rise to delays.

Despite this, I was able to serve formal notice of ballot in respect of four separate more localised trade disputes this week. These are of members at EDF Energy Powerlink (this is a re-ballot), LUL Hammersmith Depot Drivers, Stratford Market Depot members employed by Alstom Metro Trains and LUL Willesden Green Station Staff Members.

Please note that in all four cases the balloting timetable is identical. All employers were formally served with notice of ballot yesterday and ballot papers will be dispatched to members’ homes next Thursday 19th November 2009. Again, in all cases, the closing date for the ballots is first post on Thursday 3rd December 2009.

Everybody is asked to try and do all they can in order to get the maximum YES vote in each of these ballots, although I know this is done as a matter of course. Information on each of these disputes now follows:

EDF Energy Powerlink

As I mentioned above, this is in fact a re-ballot in support of this year’s pay claim. Like most employers, EDF are trying to take advantage of economic circumstances to drive pay down. They have offered these members a pay increase of around 1% with productivity.

As I said we had already balloted our EDF members once already. On a turnout of over 80%, members voted by over 5 to 1 in favour of strike action. Unfortunately, instead of trying to negotiate with RMT and deal with the real issues that affect their employees, EDF management instead went running to the law courts and was able, on a technicality, to prevent us from using our mandate for industrial action. The EDF legal team were able to persuade a High Court judge that they could not identify the grade of staff we had balloted from the description we had given them, that of “Engineer Technician”. This was the legal technicality I referred to.

We are, as I said, appealing this decision, but at the same time we are re-balloting these members and this time we have given the company the information they claim they need. Whatever the case, RMT and its EDF members remain determined to get a fair and full settlement in respect of this year’s pay claim and EDF have in no way undermined this determination. And in the event of industrial action taking place by these members who generate and distribute the electricity that powers the Underground, the implications are serious.

LUL Hammersmith Depot Drivers

This dispute has arisen due to local management’s intention to impose rosters and duty schedules on Train Operators at Hammersmith Depot without the agreement of the Local Representatives.

And it’s not surprising that there is no agreement as the new proposals involve more weekend working and other shifts of an extreme nature that will be detrimental to welfare and family needs. They would also give rise to a reduction in jobs.

Management hope to have the new arrangements in operation on Sunday 13th December 2009, but with the ballot schedule I gave above, we will be able to take industrial action as early as Thursday 10th December should we so wish.

Stratford Market Depot – Alstom Metro Trains

This is a harmonisation dispute following a failure to agree and an exhaustion of the local negotiating process.

For some time now, the Union has been arguing that Fleet staff at Stratford Market Depot should be on pay and conditions that at least match those paid by Alstom at similar London locations, most notably Golders Green on the Northern Line.

This is by no means an unreasonable demand, but sadly it appears to have fallen on deaf ears, hence the decision to ballot. As ever, I anticipate a strong mandate for industrial action being returned.

LUL Willesden Green Group Station Staff – Dismissal of Colleen Johnston, Station Supervisor

Members on the Willesden Green Group have asked via their Branch for a ballot in support of their dismissed colleague, Station Supervisor Colleen Johnston. Nothing short of her unconditional reinstatement will do.

Colleen got at a call at work to say her child has suffered a fall sustaining a head injury and there was a desperate need to get home. She tried to contact her DSM who was constantly engaged, so she advised another colleague of the situation who undertook to inform the DSM of the situation which he did.

As a consequence of this, all sorts of charges were thrown at Colleen including deliberately trying to avoid a D&A test (not true with medical evidence to support this) and disobeying an instruction that no supervisors were to leave site (not true because no such instruction was given). Furthermore, she was not the only person to leave work that day, but nobody else was suspended, investigated or disciplined to the level Colleen has been subject to.

But the facts are that Colleen’s child did sustain an injury that day and there is proof to support this. And it is also true that Colleen had been highly active in helping with organising a dispute on the station group earlier this year.

The whole thing stinks of local management looking to settle scores and they are using the most flimsiest of opportunities to do so. They cannot be allowed to get away with it. The Branch meeting that called for this ballot was “mobbed” by members from Willesden Green Station Group and this is surely indicative of how the ballot will turn out on 3rd December.

I will of course report further on the outcome of all of these disputes in due course.

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