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Virgin Trains East Coast: "All Change" on the East Coast Mainline

17 May 2018

Yesterday's announcement that the East Coast Mainline franchise is to be brought back into public ownership on 24 June 2018 as London North Eastern Railways (LNER) is long-overdue and represents a further blow to the failed franchise model. Many members will have been through this before, but for some it will be a new and potentially worrying experience. However, TSSA are experts at dealing with these situations and will be working tirelessly with VTEC & LNER over the next few weeks to ensure the transfer is as seamless as possible.

The TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings [Protection of Employment] Regulations 2006) legislation deals with situations where businesses change ownership and protects the jobs and rights of employees. This means that LNER will automatically take on transferring employees and must honour rates of pay and contractual terms. This protection covers all staff directly employed by VTEC at the time of the transfer. LNER have confirmed that TUPE applies to the transfer and nothing will change other than the Company name and branding in the immediate future.

We’re aware that our members in the Gosforth CSC have particular concerns and will be pressing LNER to provide reassurance that it remains committed to the CSC going forwards. We understand the last three intakes of staff were all directly employed on fixed term contracts, so we will also be seeking LNER’s confirmation that if any changes are to be made to these arrangements in the future, that change is a positive one to permanent contracts.

VTEC’s communication yesterday also stated the proposed transfer of staff to Hitachi will go ahead as planned in November. These discussions will now take place with LNER nearer the time and will also be covered by the TUPE regulations as above. As part of the discussions we will continue to seek agreement on the principle of honouring existing Company provided travel facilities for staff affected by the transfer to Hitachi.

Although TUPE does not apply to pensions in the same way as it applies to pay and contractual terms, there are a set of minimum standards plus particular protections for many railway staff arising from the original rail privatisation legislation. In practice this means your current pension provision is likely to continue post-transfer to LNER, and we will be seeking further information as a matter of urgency next week. So far, LNER has said it “anticipates” that arrangements will be made for staff to continue to participate in the relevant section of the Railways Pension Scheme (RPS), but we are determined in our discussions with LNER to ensure this is the case. TSSA will not accept any reduction of pension benefits as a consequence of the transfer.

We understand that a meeting to commence the TUPE consultation process is being arranged for next week, and we will of course keep you updated of any further developments.

If you have moved home or changed your contact and/or work details, you must ensure you advise us of these changes. This will ensure you receive important circulars and advice from TSSA. Please contact our Helpdesk on 0800 328 2673 to update or change your personal details, or log in to My TSSA via the website.

If you require any further information on the contents of this circular, please contact one of your staff reps in the first instance. Please also discuss the contents of this circular 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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