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First Great Western-TSSA advice on RMT industrial action

2 July 2015

The RMT union has confirmed that their members will be taking industrial action from 18:30 on Wednesday 8 July 2015 until 18:29 on Friday 10 July 2015. In accordance with your contractual requirements, TSSA members are advised that in the event of industrial action, you should make every endeavour to report for duty as normal. TSSA urges all of our FGW members not to undertake duties that would undermine lawful industrial action by your colleagues. However, the law relating to industrial action means that TSSA and its members cannot offer any support to your RMT colleagues that could be perceived as secondary action and which could therefore be unlawful. Members may, however, choose as a matter of individual conscience, not to cross another union’s picket line. Members who so choose should be aware that such action is likely to put them in breach of contract, and may result in their employer taking disciplinary action against them (including dismissal). TSSA will of course provide advice, support and representation to any member facing disciplinary action in such circumstances.

At work, TSSA members are strongly urged to carry out their normal duties and you should not volunteer to work extended hours arising directly out of or in consequence of the dispute. Members not in the management grades are urged not to agree to undertake any duties that could not be regarded as part of their job description and/or have not in the past been undertaken by them in their current post.

Members should not at any time during the dispute act in breach of their contracts of employment and should carry out their normal duties in line with that stated above.

TSSA wrote to First Great Western to seek their assurance that none of our members will be instructed to cover the duties of RMT members taking industrial action. Sadly I have received no such guarantee from the Company who has stated the following this week:

“1) We reserve the right to use managers to cover roles during industrial action.

2) We will only use them in roles where they have had the necessary training and assessment.

3) Where colleagues have concerns about safety they should raise those with their line manager and the 'refusal to work on grounds of safety' process applies.”

Based on this response I have today written to the Company to confirm that we consider ourselves to be in dispute with them on this issue. Some of our management members have already reported to us their concerns about the forthcoming industrial action and what they may be asked to do as a result. It is clear that enormous pressure is now being applied to managers to train for and undertake the duties of staff that may soon be taking industrial action. There is the obvious potential for the company to expect managers to do this AND their normal job with all of the consequent problems of fatigue that will arise. The union is particularly concerned that our members should not be asked by the company to undertake any duties for which they believe they are not adequately trained or competent. TSSA is already in discussion about these issues with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), the health and safety enforcing authority for the railways.

TSSA is keen that our members know and understand their rights regarding working excessive hours. Managers in particular should be aware of their legal rights, especially their rights in respect of the duration of turns of duty and rest breaks.

The following may assist:

TSSA Reps Bulletin Emp/073/June 2010: http://www.tssa.org.uk/en/reps-area/reps-bulletins/employment/index.cfm

ORR website: http://orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/2095/RGD-2004-16.pdf

Members should be in no doubt that should a serious incident occur whilst an individual is undertaking duties for which they are not competent or adequately trained to perform, or if working whilst fatigued, there will be very serious consequences not just for the company but also for that individual, and for the manager instructing that individual to undertake those duties. Is First Great Western really worth going to prison for?

Should the company attempt to seek the agreement of, or instruct, staff with the appropriate background, to undertake duties normally performed by members of other unions, the circumstances should be reported immediately to the TSSA's Helpdesk - 0800 328 2673. This applies to circumstances regardless of whether or not the individual’s judgement is that they are competent to undertake the duties in question.

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