Network Rail Signallers

Submitted by AWL on 4 March, 2007 - 9:46

RMT is set to call Scottish Network Rail signallers out on strike; we should all support them. Signallers voted 70%:30%, on a 63% turnout, to strike, angry at management's delays in agreeing the new 35-hour week rosters and refusal to allow them to bank the extra hours into six extra rest days a year - and at managers’ abuses of the Cognisco system.

The issues facing the Scottish signallers affect signallers in other parts of the UK too. Only 50% of rosters were agreed by the December deadline, by mid-January 72%: even then, management claim it takes so long to input the rosters into the HMRS payroll system that most of us will still have to wait for months. Why has RMT not called action across the country?

Many local reps were not even called to talks until November, and were then shown unacceptable rosters, forcing failures to agree and more delays. Some rosters that were supposed to come in on 6th January have now been put back to 22nd March.

Since the ballot started in Scotland, NR across the UK seem to be hurrying up to get rosters sorted. But it is uneven. An example from Yorkshire and Humberside: new rosters are being implemented in Barnetby but not in Doncaster - even though they are next-door areas and some relief signallers work in both!

In some places, new rosters were sent out with less than a week's notice. Your rest days are suddenly changed, when usually they are pre-booked for the year. Elsewhere, rosters were due to come in but were cancelled at short notice. You could come back off a long weekend expecting to be on your new roster but find yourself still on the old one! Some staff don't even know what job they will be doing next week, as the creation of new relief signallers' posts means that people move jobs.

Network Rail keeps us in the dark. You expect that from your boss, but should expect better from your union. Sadly, there has not been enough information from RMT.

Network Rail signallers are suffering from a poor deal, poorly implemented. RMT mis-handled the dispute over the deal, naming strikes then calling them off at short notice, not giving signallers the chance to win a better deal by going ahead with action. The union leaders probably feel obliged to make their deal work - but if the employer uses the deal to attack workers, then RMT leaders should wise up and go back into battle. We have long since reached that point.

Many signallers feel disillusioned and frustrated. More unity, and more information, would be a good start to restoring their confidence in the union.