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Investment Projects "Project Dime" Briefing

18 July 2011

Last week TSSA reps representing members in Investment Projects (IP) attended a briefing that covered "Project Dime", an initiative still in its formative stages. We made it clear that your reps welcome this process of approaching trade unions to discuss proposals for organisational change in their early stages.

 A New Way of Working?

Historically, NR have tended to avoid engaging with members’ knowledge and experience until engaging in “union consultation” in the loosest sense - as a token gesture prior to final implementation. We have always argued that involving your reps during the development process gives you – our members – an opportunity to get involved by communicating with TSSA representatives.

It was clear from the outset that the driving force of Project Dime is the ideology of the free market, that competition increases efficiency and reduces costs. We were told that within the wider industry, IP has a “good reputation”, but is seen as “wasteful and expensive” by stakeholders. Following the McNulty Report and emerging Government policy, the “public sector bad, private sector good” logic will apparently be an unavoidable assumption of future transport policy.

Two For a Dime!

Project Dime equates to creating:

· A new delivery organisation (working title: Newco) which will bid for work on the open market with competitors in the output definition phase of GRIP process. This will “be a business unit in Network Rail (but act like a separated company)”.

· A “client organisation structure” will be created to manage the contracts for which “Newco” and other bidders will compete.

The Economics of the Slaughterhouse or the Safe House?

This may sound like an increase in bureaucracy by simultaneously creating a tendering organisation and a bidding organisation, with a potential threat to our members as project planning becomes potentially less secure in a competitive market. NR’s rationale supposes that market forces will drive down back office costs and improve efficiencies by reducing bureaucracy.

Of course, the alternative view is that this inevitably results in simply forcing down labour costs in a race to the bottom and under-bidding as has been the case in tendering for TOC franchises (e.g. NXEC).

A potential opportunity offered by Project Dime lies in the fact that competing with project management companies for business with Network Rail projects allows IP to be benchmarked for value for money against comparable companies, rather than the likes of Deutsche Bahn and NSCF as in the McNulty report. The main risk is that rather than preserving our members’ future in Investment Projects, the function moves increasingly towards the private sector and eroding terms and conditions for the workforce.

We Need Your Knowledge

Due to the uncertainties inherent in this programme, your reps are reserving judgement at this stage, however, the principle source of optimism lies in the fact that your reps are involved at this early stage, meaning that it is essential that you are actively involved in the on-going decision making process by engaging with your local, area and national reps to challenge the programme decision makers to ensure that the project offers more benefits than costs for staff in IP. Our relationship with this programme must be critical yet constructive to build for a similar level of influence in future programmes across the company. If you do not know who your relevant reps are, please call our Freephone members’ Helpdesk.

If you have colleagues in IP who are not yet TSSA members, please remind them that they must be in a recognised union to gain input into this programme. Encourage non-members to join us and please share this circular with your colleagues.

This circular gives just a rough outline of the points made at the briefing. If you have detailed questions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the reps who attended the briefing:

John Jenkins

David Northey

Adrian Bridges

Jacqui Hall

Rod Heaton

Dave Barnes

Clive James

Ian Wilson

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