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UK – Northern Rail accused of exploiting agency staff

21 May 2013

Railway workers have voted in favour of strike action over the use of agency workers by train operator Northern Rail with the RMT union accusing the train company of casualising its workforce.

The union is now considering whether to go ahead with a strike. It claims Northern Rail is increasingly moving to casualise rail functions through the use of “cheapskate agencies”. It said this comes at the expense of permanent jobs and undermined pay and working conditions.

Northern Rail said they are only trialling the use of casual staff, something the union made out as a “bogus claim.” RMT is accusing the train operator of escalating the use of agency workers into core areas to save costs and “hire and fire” at will.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “With this mandate secured there is no excuse for the company to continue to refuse to enter meaningful talks. There is rock-solid 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”.

“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.”

He said the work should not be done “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 from Northern Rail denied the accusations. “Claims we are casualising the workforce or replacing permanent employees with agency workers are completely untrue. This focuses on two revenue protection contracts, one of which has been in place for 13 years, since before Northern began. 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,” he said.

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