London Taxi drivers working Paddington rank could see an increase in demand if plans for industrial action go ahead by the union. The balloting of staff this week across Heathrow Express is in response to a package of multi-million pound cuts which amount to an all-out assault on pay, jobs and safety. Ballot papers will be sent out tomorrow and the ballot – for both strike action and action short of a strike – will close on 15th April.
RMT has had a formal notice that Heathrow Express plans to re-organise its workforce indicating that, in an attempt to save £6 million over the next five years, some 201 jobs are now placed under threat of redundancy, representing almost a half of the current workforce. The attack on jobs and working conditions comes as a direct result of the decision of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to cut £600 million from the Heathrow Airport budget over the same period.
In order to meet their share of this cuts target Heathrow Express are proposing:
• The removal of the Customer Service Representative (CSR) role to be replaced by a new Customer Host grade on a reduced salary.
• Current CSR staff to see their pay frozen for an expected ten years until the proposed new grade reaches an equivalent salary.
• Removal of the CSA grade on Heathrow Connect Services and for Train Drivers to take on the “evacuation of passengers in emergency” role.
• The extension of Driver Only Operation and self-despatch of trains at all locations apart from Paddington.
RMT has now made it clear the Heathrow Express proposals are completely unacceptable and under no circumstances will the union tolerate a situation where our members are made to pay for the company’s cost cutting agenda. This point has been reinforced in face to face talks but the company has refused to budge an inch. RMT is also disgusted that the cuts are being driven through at a time when Heathrow is generating dividend payments of over £600 million a year to wealthy investors.
The Civil Aviation Authority, in its own study of the cuts plans has said that:
“The CAA considered that HAL might have scope to reduce the level of Heathrow Express staff. However, this could reduce ticket revenues and the quality of the rail service.”
RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT does not buy for a moment the case for handing out savage cuts to Heathrow Express when Heathrow is generating hand-outs to shareholders of over £600 million.
“The Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect services are dealing with growing demand as the airport expands and the idea that safety and service is going to be sacrificed at the stroke of an accountant’s pen would shame London and leave these high-profile services extremely vulnerable.