Network Rail says around 1,800 maintenance jobs could go as part of changes it intends to implement to ‘introduce modern working practices’ and save hundreds of millions of pounds.
It says it hopes the majority of jobs will be lost due to voluntary severance and ‘natural wastage’ and adds that with retraining and redeployment it anticipates ‘there will be a job for everyone who wants one.’
In a letter sent to the RMT, Unite and TSSA unions, the infrastructure manager invited representatives to a meeting to discuss its proposals.
Programme Director, Modernising Maintenance and Chair of National Maintenance Council Paul Rutter wrote: ‘As you will recall at Rail Industry Recovery Group (RIRG), at an industry level, in principle the need for changes to working practices was agreed to ensure that the rail industry became sustainable.
‘However, many hours spent in discussions both under the auspices of RIRG and more recently under our own collective processes we have not managed to make meaningful progress.
‘In particular we have been meeting since earlier this year with the aim of seeking a negotiated settlement on how to effectively deploy our Maintenance and Works Delivery organisations in light of the post Covid increased financial deficit with which our industry is now faced.
‘We have always made clear to you that we needed to make material progress in these discussions and that we needed to implement meaningful changes to working practices by April 2023.’
Mr Rutter said NR ‘cannot, however delay any longer and with that in mind we intend to consult formally with you on the implementation of changes to a number of working practices which we believe can be changed within the existing agreements and T&Cs under which our Maintenance and Works Delivery staff are employed.’
He said NR would also press ahead with consultation of certain unspecified technologies ‘in order to make the railway a safer and more efficient workplace.’
‘Our need for Maintenance and Works Delivery staff is likely to reduce, and so we will need also to commence formal redundancy consultation with our trade unions under s188 of the 1992 Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act.
‘Again, whilst we do not have to agree those redundancies with our trade unions, we would much prefer to implement them with your agreement and co-operation. We very much hope (and anticipate) that sufficient employees will volunteer for redundancy to avoid the need to make anyone compulsorily redundant,’ he concluded.
Changes proposed by Network Rail include implementing individual rostering, standardising the allocation of night working and a revised roster authorisation process. NR also wants to introduce ‘joint incident response teams,’ explaining that in these, staff would work ‘collaboratively to assist each other and respond to incidents together whilst maintaining their engineering discipline. This would also apply for maintenance tasks where applicable.’