RMT union warns of industrial action over pensions threat

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has warned of co-ordinated action over any threat to pensions, following the “fiasco” over Stagecoach and Virgin being banned from the franchise lottery.

In a meeting today at the Scottish TUC, the RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, has warned of national, co-ordinated industrial action if there is any threat to employee pensions, following the “collapse of the rail franchising system”. He has also demanded that the Scottish government move to head off the issue by bringing Scotrail into public ownership.

Last week, it was revealed that the Department for Transport (Dft) had banned Stagecoach, which owns 49 per cent of Virgin Rail Group, from bidding for three current UK rail franchise competitions over concerns it has failed to safeguard the risk of sections of the Railways Pension Scheme (RPS).

The DfT informed the group that it has been formally excluded from the process, after submitting “non-compliant bids” in relation to the pension schemes, which are thought to have a deficit of £5-£6bn.

"The fiasco over Stagecoach and Virgin being banned from the franchise lottery because they refuse to underpin ‎their pension obligations has laid bare the chaos of privatisation and has left RMT members, including many in Scotland, facing a period of deep uncertainty. That scandalous situation has to be brought to an end as a matter of urgency,” Cash said.

"RMT has made it clear that any threat to our members pensions, jobs or working conditions as a result of a politically-driven, privatisation crisis they are not responsible for will be met with co-ordinated and robust action.

"In Scotland there is no excuse for allowing the privatisation racket to continue any longer. Scotrail should be taken into public ownership and run as a public service in the interests of safe, secure and reliable services for all. The Scottish political establishment need to face up to both that reality and their own obligations and take the decisive action required."

Despite the DfT’s statement, Stagecoach, which was shortlisted for East Midlands Rail, South Eastern Rail and the West Coach Partnership, said that its bid was “consistent” with industry guidance. Stagecoach Group chief executive, Martin Griffiths, said: “We are extremely concerned at both the DfT's decision and its timing. The department has had full knowledge of these bids for a lengthy period and we are seeking an urgent meeting to discuss our significant concerns.

It was reported by The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, 13 April, that Stagecoach’s lawyer has sent a letter to the DfT with demands for information about its exclusion. The paper reported that the letter is understood to be a prelude to potential to High Court action.

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