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Virgin Trains East Coast: 2017 Pay Claim Update

16 June 2017

Two further meetings have now taken place to continue discussions on the 2017 pay claim since the initial meeting in March. The Company improved on its opening offer of 2.5% at yesterday's meeting, but maintained the position that productivity measures would need to be agreed in order to reach the rate of inflation reference figure of 3.2%. This was firmly rejected by your negotiating team.

From the outset of discussions, the Company has sought to create an impression that staff would need to give something significant in return even to secure a 3.2% increase and keep pace with inflation. Initially they suggested setting up grade group working parties to look at where cost savings could be made. However, major reorganisations aimed at reducing costs have either recently been undertaken or are currently in progress for the majority of staff covered by the discussions, and the Company were unable to make any detailed proposals to support their position. At yesterday’s meeting the Company proposed three specific productivity measures: to introduce a 12 month qualifying period before new employees receive company sick pay; to change from a fixed to a rolling 12 month sick pay reference period for all staff; and for the unions to support their efforts to ensure staff make greater use of current technology as new electronic processes are introduced. The revised offer was 3% without the measures above, or 3.2% if the measures were accepted.

It is clear from the presentation given by the Company at our first meeting, that while it is not achieving its own financial targets it still expects to make a profit this year. The Drivers have already received a 3.2% increase as part of their 2 year settlement, so the only reason for paying other staff less would be to make you subsidise the shortfall in their predicted profits. Meanwhile, the interim dividend paid to Stagecoach shareholders increased by 8.5% this year (despite the Virgin branding, it’s Stagecoach that controls the Company purse strings). We again took the opportunity to stress that staff are being subjected to constant change and that no amount of investment in new trains, technology, Customer Zones, uniforms, or “Virgin Way” training will overcome the damage caused to the business by a demoralised workforce. You deserve better and should not be expected to suffer as a result of the Company’s unrealistic financial predictions.

Your negotiating team stressed in the strongest possible terms that we would not accept a situation where pay and benefits were effectively cut for current staff, and nor would we sell out future generations by agreeing to reduce their sick pay entitlements as the Company proposed. We offered to give further consideration to the Company’s proposals to move to a 12 month rolling sick pay reference period, and the greater use of technology provided the necessary equipment and support was made available to staff, but only in return for an above inflation pay increase of 3.5%. The Company agreed to consider its position further in light of the discussions and respond in the next few weeks. We will of course keep you updated of any developments.

If you require any further information on the contents of this article, please contact your staff reps in the first instance. Please also discuss the contents of this article with your colleagues, and encourage any non-members to join. The more members we have, the stronger we are. Membership application forms can be obtained from your TSSA reps or you can join on-line here.

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