Signal workers across Scotland were due to strike for 48 hours from Wednesday of this week in a dispute over pay.
RMT union general secretary Bob Crow warned that the union was now preparing to ballot its entire Network Rail membership across Britain unless the deadlock was broken
The whole dispute has arisen because management in Scotland wants to usurp our 2006 pay agreement. This gave us a shorter working week, down to 35 hours from 36 hours.
Our understanding was that the additional hour was to be banked to create an additional free day – thus giving us more quality time off. Circulars back us on this.
However managers want to make the saving by shaving minutes off shifts. Big deal! Perhaps your late shift turn finishes 12 minutes earlier, but you still have to wait for the same bus or train home!
There are a couple of other issues tied into the dispute. First, management want to impose eight-hour rosters on members who currently work 12-hour shifts.
This may look like a reduction in working time, but it is actually an increase because the number of days off after consecutive shifts is reduced.
Second, safety briefing days – brought in as a result of the Clapham crash in 1988 – are being unilaterally cancelled. We sought assurance that they would not be cancelled.
We came close to an agreement, but management would not give it to us in writing – a verbal yes, but a written no.
Now the dispute is going ahead and – two weeks after the accident in Cumbria – Network Rail, in collusion with the train operating companies, are bringing in managers from various parts of the country, Scotland and England, to work signal boxes.
A signaller's training lasts at least 12 weeks. These people are being trained up in three hours. They will be in locations they have either never worked or have not worked for several years. In some cases managers are taking photographs of the signalbox to train them.
This from a company which claims to put the safety of the travelling public first and foremost. It is truly shocking but, sadly, not surprising.