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Northern Rail Staff Vote for Strike Action

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2:23pm 20th May 2013

Northern Rail staff have voted for strike action in a dispute over the casualisation of core rail work with unions accusing managers of "a campaign of lies and dirty tricks" designed to interfere in the internal balloting process.

RMT members voted by almost 58% for action and the result will now be considered by RMT’s executive

The dispute is over the use of agencies at what is claimed as the expense of permanent jobs and negotiated pay and working conditions. The RMT states that over a period of time Northern Rail has escalated the use of agency workers into core areas of their business with fears the firm is attempting to undercut pay and conditions while opening up the opportunity to hire and fire at will.

The RMT states it balloted all members for strike action because it believes every single employee is threatened by this introduction of wholesale casualisation by stealth.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“It is a tribute to our members that despite an unprecedented campaign of individual pressure through a highly-resourced campaign of intimidation by the company they have stood firm and voted for action. RMT is angry that instead of sitting down with the union to address the issues at the heart of this dispute, management have resorted to a campaign of smears and personal attacks in a desperate attempt to influence the outcome of this secret trade union ballot. With this mandate secured there is no excuse for the company to continue to refuse to enter meaningful talks.

“There is rock-sold evidence of a deliberate and cynical drive to use casual, agency staff to undermine job security, pay and working conditions on Northern Rail and our members are furious that not only have the company refused to stop this practice but they are driving it forwards. Everyone in the workforce knows it because they can see it with their own eyes. Casualisation is now the policy of Northern as they seek to deliver core rail jobs on the “lump” and if it isn’t stopped now there is no question they will seek to roll it out across all grades and that is why all members have been balloted – gate line today, the rest tomorrow if we don’t call a halt now.

“ The union’s executive will now consider this result but RMT’s core demand could not be clearer, an immediate end to Northern Rail casualising the workforce. If there is work that needs doing, it should be done by permanently employed staff on decent pay and conditions, including the current agency staff, and not by an exploited, short-term workforce paid a pittance and denied the most basic of workplace benefits and who can be hired and fired at will in the name of pumping up profits.”

Adrian Thompson, HR Director, Northern Rail said: “We are disappointed that RMT Northern members have voted in favour of strike action, but note that only just over one third of members voted yes while 63% of members voted no or abstained.

“The RMT claims that we are ‘casualising the workforce’ or replacing permanent employees with agency are completely unfounded and untrue.   This focuses on two revenue protection contracts, one of which has been in place for 13 years, since before Northern began and the second was introduced, in agreement with the RMT as a 12 month trial to be reviewed later this year.”

“The RMT Executive has said it is now considering the result.  We will update customers on strike action as soon as we have any further information.”

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