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Virgin Trains: West Coast Franchise Change

6 September 2012

On Friday 31st August 2012, Virgin Trains held a company council meeting to discuss the change of franchise operator on the West Coast route from Virgin Trains to First Group.

 

The meeting took the form of a question and answer briefing led by Tony Collins and senior representatives from HR. The company set out their current position: they will not do anything until the new Franchise Agreement contract between the Department for Transport and First Group is signed. In the meantime they will continue to lobby to overturn the decision and pursue a legal challenge.

The audience fed back how staff are feeling unsettled at this difficult time and raised concerns over how the transfer would affect them individually and collectively. There is an increasing fear that Virgin Trains staff will become caught in the middle of a bitter disagreement between their current employer Virgin Trains, the government and their future employer First Group. This situation could become even more difficult the longer the situation carries on and the greater the impasse becomes. The government have now indicated, that they will not sign the contract until Virgin’s legal challenge is resolved. However this is a fast moving situation and this could change at any time.

TUPE

The Department for Transport have also asserted publically that First Group should carry on with preparations for taking over the franchise on December 6th regardless of the legal challenge. In this situation, we must carry on and prepare in readiness for the transfer. TUPE regulations state that the company is obligated to begin consultation with staff ‘as early as practicably possible’ hence consultation should begin now rather than waiting for the contract to be signed.

TUPE means staff currently employed by the current franchise holder Virgin Trains will have the legal right to transfer with their existing contracts of employment, rates of pay and conditions of service to the new franchise holder under the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection Of Employment) regulations (known as TUPE regulations); Collective bargaining rights will also transfer.

Both the existing and new employers have a legal obligation to consult on the transfer. The consultation will include discussions on the legal, economic and social implications of the transfer, and any measures in connection with the transfer which will affect employed, including changes to jobs, staff organisations and staff numbers.

We are requesting release for reps to travel out to speak to staff within their regions, please make your views and questions known to them. These will be fed back to Virgin and First Group representatives. We will continue to communicate relevant information over this period and into the new franchise.

Now more than ever it is important to be a member of a trade union, if you know of colleagues who are not yet in TSSA please encourage them to do so. They can join online at:

http://www.tssa.org.uk/en/join-us/join-intro.cfm

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