Tagged: RMT

City Link: ‘Go on Facebook to find work’ Vince Cable tells delivery firm staff

Staff from City Link’s Gateshead and Durham depots have been told to “go on Facebook” to find a new job.

More than 2,350 workers were made redundant. including many of the company’s 101 North East employees, after an 11th hour rescue bid failed.

And now Business Secretary Vince Cable – who unions had criticised for not doing more to stop the company’s collapse – has told warehouse staff and delivery drivers to search social media for work.

The Government has put arrangements in place to help employees who are made redundant and we stand ready to help,” Mr Cable said.

“City Link employees and self-employed drivers who have their contracts terminated as a result of City Link’s administration will be able to access the Government’s rapid response service, which draws together local partners such as Jobcentre Plus and the skills bodies to deliver support for each person affected.

> Watch out for the sanctions, lads. Now you are unemployed you automatically become scum and will be treated accordingly.

“In addition, a Facebook page has been set-up to link-up companies holding suitable vacancies with those who have been made redundant, so if drivers can be redeployed into new jobs in this competitive buoyant market they will be.”

> So get ready to grab another self-employed or otherwise unstable job opportunity with another poorly-managed company.

Reacting to the redundancies, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“The City Link Christmas destruction is an act of industrial vandalism that shames our nation while the Government looked on and offered nothing but hollow words.”

Mr Cash had earlier disclosed details of a possible rescue, saying they had been “made aware of what we believe to be a credible bid to take over some or all of the City Link trading operation”.

But the administrators said that the offer they had received “offered no money up front and significantly undervalued the assets to be acquired.”

In total 2,356 City Link redundancies were announced on New Year’s Eve – however there are still 30,000 parcels waiting to be collected from City Link depots, which stopped accepting new items on Christmas Eve, and 371 people have been kept on to deal with remaining parcels and to assist in winding down its operations. It is not yet clear how many of those jobs are in the North East.

Customers who have sent parcels and intended recipients have been advised to collect their items between 8am and 8pm, with depots expected to remain open until “approximately” January 6.

Joint administrator Hunter Kelly said:

“It is with regret that we have to announce substantial redundancies at City Link Limited, which ceased accepting new parcels on December 24 2014.

“The company endured substantial losses, which ultimately became too great for it to continue as a going concern, and City Link Limited entered administration following an unsuccessful sale process.

“At meetings across City Link Limited’s UK sites on Monday and Tuesday, employees were informed that there would be substantial redundancies as no new business was being taken on.”

The administrators said staff affected by redundancy will be offered advice and support in making claims for redundancy and notice pay.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 01 Jan 2015

Crunch talks over North East jobs at City Link parcel company

Crunch talks are taking place today in a bid to save hundreds of North jobs following the collapse of parcel delivery firm City Link.

Union officials from the RMT are meeting the company’s administrators Ernst and Young (EY) in the hope they can hammer out a deal to prevent nearly 3,000 job losses, including those at its branches at Belmont in County Durham, Wardley in Gateshead and Carlisle in Cumbria.

The move comes after City Link announced –  on Christmas Day – that it is going into administration after years of “substantial losses.”

The union claims the company employes hundreds of people in the North East, although exactly how many is not yet known.

It has branded the move “truly devastating” for the region’s economy.

Officials are to meet in Leeds this afternoon to discuss the fate of the firm’s 2,727 staff, and union bosses have vowed to stay in talks for as long as it takes to salvage jobs.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT’s objective now is to do everything we can to rescue jobs in the wake of the shock collapse into administration of City Link on Christmas Day.

“Despite the festive season there can be no delays in getting on with the rescue programme and we expect the government through Vince Cable to take an active role right now.

“The thousands of workers caught in the middle of this crisis deserve full support from every quarter.”

The union has demanded “urgent talks” with business secretary Mr Cable and said it is disappointed the minister has only pledged to meet them in the new year.

Coventry-based City Link, which is understood to have counted John Lewis among its largest clients, expects numerous redundancies after no buyer could be found to bail it out.

The RMT said it believed there may have been “more cynical motives” behind the decision to “delay” the announcement until Christmas Day and demanded an investigation.

A spokesman for the union in the North said:

“Hundreds of jobs will be placed at risk in the North East and this will be truly devastating for the economy.”

City Link operations have been suspended at all its depots until Monday, when customers and those expecting deliveries will be able to collect their parcels.

Investment firm Better Capital, led by veteran venture capitalist Jon Moulton, bought the courier group for just £1 in April last year from the previous owner, pest control firm Rentokil.

A number of staff will be retained to help return parcels to customers and help with winding down the company, EY said.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Dec 2014

Easington MP’s anger over reports of rail take-over move

Easington Labour MP Grahame Morris and transport unions have reacted with fury to reports that the UK’s only Government-run rail line is to be taken over by a consortium largely owned by the French state.

Mr Morris said the decision to re-privatise the East Coast line was “right-wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of passengers”.

Edinburgh East Labour MP Sheila Gilmour and the RMT and TSSA unions were also highly critical of the expected decision.

The UK Government has been anxious to return the London to Scotland East Coast main line to the private sector ever since it was taken over from National Express by the Department for Transport in 2009.

But now it is likely that this week’s announcement of a new private franchise will see the line, from next year, being run by joint bidders Eurostar and French transport company Keolis which is 70% owned by state-run French rail company SNCF.

Opponents of the move to re-privatise the East Coast line have pointed out that the public-sector run company has made big returns to the Treasury during its tenure.

Mr Morris said:

“This public-run rail franchise has generated over a billion pounds for the Treasury. If this is what a publicly-run train operating franchise can deliver, at a time when every penny counts, we should be looking at ways to bring privately run railways back into public ownership not the other way round.

“This is right wing Tory dogma being put ahead of the best interests of the service, consideration for passengers and the public finances. The public-run East Coast main line franchise has consistently been the best performing franchise when it comes to passenger and staff satisfaction, fares and profitability. “

Ms Gilmore said:

“Passengers recognise the improvements to services that East Coast have made under public ownership over the last few years. They also appreciate that at present, all profits are retained for the benefit of British passengers and taxpayers.

“But despite calls from Labour for these arrangements to continue in the long term, today we hear that East Coast is set to be privatised just before the next general election.”

She went on:

“Ironically if the contract is awarded to Keolis – which is largely owned by the French government – ticket revenue may well be reinvested in improved services. Unfortunately these will be services between places like Paris and Lyon or Marseille and Monaco, rather than Edinburgh and London.

“A future Labour government would allow a public sector operator to bid for rail contracts, so that passengers and taxpayers always get value for money.”

A win for Eurostar/Keolis would mean disappointment for the other two bidders – FirstGroup and a joint venture between Virgin Trains and transport company Stagecoach.

Before National Express pulled out of the franchise, a previous private operator – GNER – also ceased running the East Coast line after its parent company Sea Containers got into financial difficulties.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT transport union said re-privatising the line was “ludicrous” and a “national disgrace”.

He added:

This is pure industrial vandalism and the strong rumour that the French-state operator is in pole position to mop up this vital, strategic north/south route says it all.

“This Government is happy to have state ownership of our railways as long as it isn’t by the British state, in the interests of the British people.”

Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA transport union, said:

“This has got nothing to do with improving services but everything to do with sheer political spite.

“Here we have the best-value franchise, which has returned £1 billion to the taxpayer over the past five years, being sold overseas because it is a public sector success story.

“Rather than allow that to continue, the Tories would rather see it in French hands. They don’t want the voters having the chance to keep it in the public sector by voting Labour in May.”

He went on:

“We are in the absurd position that the country that invented railways, and gave them to the world, is no longer considered by the Tories capable enough to run our own railway firms.

“They prefer French, German and Dutch state railways to run them instead. ‘Anyone but the Brits’ seems to be their vindictive attitude.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  25 Nov 2014

County Durham : Clothes bank set up to help those in need

A clothes bank offering free clothing and toiletries to people who use food banks is to be launched later this month.

Monthly sessions will take place at Brandon, near Durham City and details of similar sessions to take place in Stanley will be announced in the near future.

The County Durham Socialist Clothes Bank is being set up by the Durham Miners’ Association, Durham People’s Assembly and trade unions the GMB, RMT, and Unite.

The first session will take place at Brandon Welfare Hall on Tuesday, October 28 from noon until 2pm and will be open to anyone in receipt of food bank vouchers.

Organiser Dawn Wilson said:

“As far as we are aware, this is the first of this type of scheme to be set up across County Durham.

“We have been inundated with hundreds of items of clothing, toys and toiletries since launching our appeal.”

She added:

“The idea behind the scheme is something which myself and Catherine Ainsley have had for some time, but when recently overhearing a conversation between a young boy and his mother in a shoe shop, during which she explained that she could only afford to buy shoes for his sister this year, this spurred me into taking some action and getting the project off the ground”.

 In the 12 months up to March 2014, approximately 60,000 adults and children used Trussell Trust food banks in the North-East, up from 10,500 the previous year.

Ms Wilson added:

When talking to food banks organisers and users we have found that many are also in dire need of clothing and toiletries, because they simply cannot afford even charity shop prices.

> No “even” about it… the majority of charity shops forgot their original purpose and started chasing the middle class pound. Charity shops are no longer cheap.

“As the winter is drawing in we would like to make a special appeal for shoes, gloves, hats, scarves and warm coats; toys would also be very much welcomed in the run up to Christmas”.

Source –  Durham Times,  18 Oct 2014

RMT calls on North East MPs to back motion against re-franchise of Northern and Trans-Pennine Express

Rail union campaigners opposing Government cuts to jobs and services are calling on local authorities in the region to support them.

The RMT is warning fares will rise under Government plans for the refranchising of Northern and Trans-Pennine Express trains.

Now, RMT boss Mick Cash is calling on MPs to back an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, put forward by Stockton North MP Alex Cunninghgam, rejecting the Government’s consultation on the plans and setting out concerns about the line’s future.

So far, North East Labour MPs Pat Glass, Stephen Hepburn, Mary Glindon and Dave Anderson have signed the motion.

Mick Cash is asking councillors and local authorities to back their campaign against rail cuts as it sends out 10,000 postcards throughout the region to raise awareness.

Liverpool City Council has officially registered its opposition to the Government’s plans and the union is hopeful others will follow suit.

It comes after Northern Rail opted to slash some of its off-peak fares in a move the union claims was motivated “purely in the name of profit”.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said demand for rail travel is growing and claimed any plan to cut jobs made no sense.

He said: “The fight to stop the outrageous carve up of jobs and services under the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express franchise plans is gathering pace by the day and is sending out the clearest possible message to the Government and Rail North that they need to scrap this attack on transport services.

“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, restrict services, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate.

“That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun with the abolition of off-peak fares and only an all-out and coordinated fight can stop the savage assault on rail in the North.

“RMT today launches the next phase of the fight to both inform the public and fight the savage cuts being lined up for these Northern rail franchises, and to get MPs signed up to EDM 174 opposing this carve-up.

“It is absolutely essential now that we keep up the pressure.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  06 Oct 2014

Union’s fears for Tyne Valley rail line

Railway workers mounted a protest at Hexham railway station on Tuesday against what they describe as the biggest threat to railway services since the Beeching Axe of the 1960s.

At the same time, there were angry protests at rail company Northern Rail’s decision to axe off-peak fares on the  Tyne Valley line – a decision which will hit hundreds of local commuters.

The protests have been sparked by the Department for Transport’s consultation exercise on the future of the Northern and Trans Pennine rail franchises, drawn up in conjunction with Rail North, a conglomeration of 30 Northern local authorities.

Railway workers’ union RMT say the proposals will result in fare rises, service and timetable cuts and the loss of hundreds of essential rail jobs.

They also feel passenger service and safety will be affected by the proposed introduction of driver-only operation, the sacking of train guards, conductors, station de-staffing and ticket office closures.

Union members are particularly concerned that the proposed cuts will impact on disabled, older and women passengers.

The consultation is due to end on Monday of next week.

Further fuel has been added to the fires of discontent by Northern Rail’s announcement this week that, with effect from Monday September 8, off-peak tickets can no longer be used during weekday evenings on local rail services between Hexham and Newcastle.

Customers who currently use off-peak tickets during the evening peak will either have to travel earlier or later, or buy an anytime ticket.

> Although if they get rid of all the conductors and guards, who will be checking tickets anyway ?

The rail company claims the majority of customers who travel at the evening peak time already buy season tickets or anytime fares and won’t be affected by this change.

They could also find their trains are less crowded.

Commercial director, of Northern Rail, Richard Allan, said: “The majority of customers will be unaffected by these changes, but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening.”

Off-peak day/duo tickets will no longer be valid on weekdays on all services between Hexham and Newcastle between 4pm and 6pm.

Regular travellers could benefit from season tickets, which can be purchased for a week, month or year, and offer significant discounts.

The changes are being made after the DfT asked Northern to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its new franchise agreement.

The franchise agreement includes commitments to invest in more customer information systems, better retailing facilities and environmental initiatives, which will lead to over £6m being invested to improve facilities for customers.

However, RMT has described the move as “a savage kick in the teeth for the travelling public”.

Acting general secretary of the RMT, Mick Cash, said: “People are already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity and the fact that this has been cooked up by the Department for Transport in collusion with the privatisation pirates from Northern Rail is a warning of what’s to come.

“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares, while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate.

“The attack on the fare-paying public has already begun.”

Source –  Hexham Courant,  20 Aug 2014

Shortlist of firms bidding to run region’s rail services branded as “same old greedy companies”

The shortlist of train firms bidding to run the region’s rail services have been announced by the Government – with unions immediately descriving the operators as the “same old greedy companies”.

Three companies have been shortlisted to run the Northern franchise, while three companies are being considered for the TransPennine Express franchise.

All the operators companies have successfully passed the pre-qualification stage, and will now be asked to develop their plans for the franchises before they receive the Government’s Invitation to Tender in December.

Officials say that bidders will be expected to show how they will make the most of the government’s £1billion investment programme for the rail network in the north of England, which aims to provide faster and more reliable journeys, more capacity, better trains and improved connections for passengers across the region.

The shortlisted bidders to run the two franchises are:

Northern

• Abellio Northern Ltd

• Arriva Rail North Limited

• Govia Northern Limited

TransPennine Express

• First Trans Pennine Express Limited

• Keolis Go-Ahead Limited

 • Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited

Rail Minister Claire Perry said: “The north is undergoing a real rail renaissance, and we will be asking these companies to come up with innovative and ambitious proposals that will ensure a truly world-class rail network for the region.

“Building a railway that is fit for the 21st century is a vital part of our long term economic plan, connecting businesses and communities, generating jobs and boosting growth, and we need strong private sector partners to help us achieve this ambition.”

The new operator will also be expected to work closely with Rail North, which represents the region’s local authorities, to ensure local rail users will have more influence in how their train services are run.

Sir Richard Leese, for Rail North, said: “The companies on the shortlists demonstrate the interest there is in meeting Rail North’s desire to see the railway acting as an economic driver in the north of England.

“We look forward to working with the bidders to deliver strong franchises for passengers, which reflect the aims and objectives of our Long Term Rail Strategy and the predicted growth in patronage.”

The franchise is expected to run for a period of around 7 to 9 years, with the provision for an extension of one year at the discretion of the DfT.

An announcement about the successful bidder is expected in autumn 2015, with the contract expected to start in February 2016.

One of the shortlisted companies, Stagecoach, said the TPE rail franchise was a key part of the North of England’s infrastructure, supporting economic growth and connecting communities –  and the company was delighted to have been shortlisted by the Department for Transport.

A spokesmand added: “Stagecoach has played a leading role in transforming rail travel in Britain over the past two decades, bringing new ideas and putting customers at the heart of the railway.

“We look forward to engaging with local people and other stakeholders to develop a package of ambitious and robust proposals that will improve services and deliver better value for money to passengers and taxpayers.”

Mick Cash, RMT Acting General Secretary, criticised the Government for releasing ths hortliost just horus after a consultation process into the future of the services closed.

Mr Cash added that the shortlist contained “the same old greedy companies looking to hitch yet another ride on the rail privatisation gravy train purely in the interests of private profit”. 

He said: “It makes a mockery of the consultation that this list of the greedy and the incompetent has been drawn up by the Government before the consultation responses have even been opened and before these companies even know what it is that they are bidding for.

“RMT said from the off that the consultation was wholly bogus, this morning’s outrageous manoeuvring has proved that conclusively and RMT will use every tool at our disposal to expose this racket for what it is.”

Both franchises are due to be awarded by October 2015 and as they develop their bids each of the bidders will need to set out how they will capitalise on the biggest programme of rail modernisation ever.

The Government says that than £1billion will be spent on the rail network in the north over the next five years.

The potential operators will need to demonstrate how they will use these projects to increase capacity in order to tackle crowding and meet future passenger demand; provide faster and more frequent services; and upgrade rolling stock, including proposals to replace Pacer trains on the Northern franchise. Bidders will also need to improve customer service and passenger satisfaction.

The Northern and TransPennine Express franchises carried more than 110 million passengers last year, covering inter-urban, commuter and rural routes. The franchises connect passengers travelling into and between the key strategic cities of Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle, and onwards to Edinburgh and Glasgow.

A public consultation into the future of rail services in the north closed on Monday and responses will be taken into account as the franchise proposals are developed further ahead of the Invitations to Tender in December.

Source – Northern Echo, 19 Aug 2014

Northern Rail puts up fares as a result of franchise agreement

Northern Rail has announced it is putting up fares for some passengers – and blamed a new franchise agreement with the Department for Transport.

The changes will take effect from Monday, September 8, and mean that off-peak tickets can no longer be used during weekday evenings on the line between Newcastle and Hexham in Northumberland.

Customers who currently use off-peak tickets during the evening peak will either have to travel earlier or later, or buy a more expensive anytime ticket, according to Northern Rail.

In a statement, the firm told passengers using season tickets or anytime fares – which won’t be affected – they could find their carriages less crowded.

The statement, issued on the company’s web site, continued: “The changes are being made after the Department for Transport asked Northern to look at several options to help reduce subsidy as part of its new franchise agreement.

“The change to off-peak tickets is the only option that has been taken forward and will be used to reduce the cost of the railway to taxpayers by reducing subsidy to Northern.”

The changes provoked a furious response from transport union the RMT, who said it could be “a taste of what’s to come” when new Northern and new TransPennine Express (TPE) franchises come into effect in 2016.

RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said: “The axing of off-peak fares is a savage kick in the teeth for people already struggling with the burden of low pay and austerity and the fact that it has been cooked up by the DfT in collusion with the privatisation pirates from Northern Rail is a warning of what’s to come.

“Let’s not forget that the core of the Government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate. That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun.”

Richard Allan, commercial director, Northern Rail said: “The majority of customers who travel at peak times, such as those with season tickets, will be unaffected by these changes but we want to make sure that those who are know about what is happening.

“We have consulted extensively with local stakeholders and with Passenger Focus on the detail of this change, which is part of our new franchise agreement that was announced in March.”

The DfT is currently consulting on the new Northern and TPE franchises ahead of the launch of a bidding process.

But a consultation published by the Dft has given a taste of what may be to come. Ministers want the services to stop employing guards and move to “driver only” trains.

They also want to review the number of staff working at ticket offices and introduce more ticket machines, suggesting staff numbers will be cut.

Source – Newcastle Journal, 12 Aug 2014

RMT Union announces 24-hour strike

RMT cleaners working for ISS on the East Coast contract are to strike again this week.

The workers have been battling over pay levels in a long running campaign, with the company refusing to grant any increase since 2011, a position the union has described as “simply disgraceful and based on nothing but pure greed”.

RMT has confirmed that there will be a strike between midnight, Friday August 15, and midnight, Saturday August 16. Picket lines will be mounted at East Coast stations.

Source – Berwick Advertiser, 12 Aug 2014

Fresh protests planned in North East against the re-privatisation of East Coast mainline

> If you have a state-run organization that is doing its job well and is making money for the country, what do you do ?

Leave it alone to get on with it ?  Of course not, you sell it off to private enterprise. Or at least you do if you’re a British government…

A fresh round of protests against the re-privatisation of the East Coast mainline are being planned after it emerged it has paid £235m back to the Government this year.

The figure means that since the line returned to public hands after the collapse of the privately run National Express franchise in 2009, it has generated £1bn in revenue for public coffers.

Despite this, the re-privatisation process will see a new franchise bidder chosen in November. It will then take over its running from Directly Operated Railways in March next year.

Rail union RMT said the £235m figure, an increase of 12% on last year, makes a mockery of the Government’s plans to “bulldoze through a re-privatisation before the next election”.

It says the Government is ignoring the financial and operational success of DOR and the “catastrophic impact of two previous private sector failures on the line”.

The RMT pointed out that the short-listed bidders for the re-privatisation included other European state rail operators, notably Keolis which is tied in with the French state railways.

This proves once again that the Government are happy to have state control of our main inter-city routes as long as it’s not the British state,” said an RMT spokesman.

He added: “We’re looking to organise a whole range of protests at stations on the East Coast mainline, including those in the North East.”

Meanwhile RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash commented: “It is a national disgrace that the Government are continuing with their plans to bulldoze through the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite the latest figures showing that it is handing massive sums back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.

“It is simply ludicrous to even contemplate re-privatisation when not only have there been two previous private sector failures on the East Coast route but when the public-sector rescue operation has been such a stunning success.

“While public ownership puts money back into the coffers that can be reinvested in our railways the private operators suck out colossal sums in subsidies and profits – that’s what privatisation means.

“The plans to hand this profitable and successful public rail operation back to the vultures are based purely on hard-right political ideology and RMT is committed to continuing the fight to block them up to polling day and beyond.”

Following privatisation of the railways in the 1990s, GNER was awarded the East Coast franchise in April 1996, to run what had been the InterCity East Coast division of British Rail.

However, in December 2006, the Department for Transport announced that it was to terminate GNER’s franchise to operate the East Coast main line after it ran into financial difficulties.

In August 2007 it was announced National Express Group had been awarded the franchise, operating under the name of National Express East Coast. However in July 2009 it said it would not be able to financially support its East Coast franchise beyond the end of 2009 when it returned to publics hands.

The three shortlisted bidders for the 393 mile route between London and Edinburgh are:

:: East Coast Trains Ltd (First Group plc)

:: Keolis/Eurostar East Coast Limited (Keolis (UK) Limited and Eurostar International Limited)

:: Inter City Railways Limited (Stagecoach Transport Holdings Limited and Virgin Holdings Limited)

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 04 Aug 2014