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Virgin Trains East Coast: Consultation on the Transfer to London North Eastern Railway

24 May 2018

A meeting took place yesterday with representatives from VTEC and LNER to open the formal consultation for the transfer of the business to LNER on 24 June 2018. The meeting was held under the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings [Protection of Employment] Regulations 2006) legislation and involved the recognised trade unions and representatives of the Management Consultative Forum.

The rules of TUPE mean that LNER will automatically take on transferring employees and must honour rates of pay and contractual terms from 24 June. This protection covers all staff directly employed by VTEC at the time of the transfer. LNER have confirmed that nothing will change other than the Company name and branding in the immediate future. TUPE does not apply in the case of contractors or agency staff. However, LNER confirmed they do not intend to terminate current arrangements for agency staff where they exist and will review their ongoing requirement for contractors and consultants as part of the process.

It was confirmed that plans already under discussion for Travel Centres and Stations will continue where they are at an “advanced” stage, but that LNER will review the programme with the unions going forwards. We questioned what was meant by “advanced”, and briefly discussed the proposed changes to Berwick and York Travel Centres where we have yet to reach agreement with VTEC on their proposals. TSSA has serious concerns about the proposals for both locations and no change should take place until our concerns have been addressed and we have reached agreement with either VTEC or LNER.

We raised concerns over the future of the Gosforth CSC, and it was confirmed that discussions had taken place with Virgin Money who want to diversify the site and are receptive to non-Virgin businesses being located there. LNER stated they have no plans to change the current arrangements in the CSC. As all CSC staff are now on VTEC contracts, these will transfer to LNER unchanged under TUPE with the same protections as above.

Both VTEC and LNER confirmed the proposed transfer of staff to Hitachi will go ahead as planned in November. This means affected Engineering staff will be subjected to two transfers in a matter of months. The first transfer to LNER is covered by this consultation, and a separate consultation will take place with LNER and Hitachi nearer the time. We raised the issue of retaining Company provided travel facilities post-transfer, as VTEC have previously indicated they would be prepared to grant this for the remainder of their franchise. As the VTEC franchise will come to an end on 24 June, we sought the same commitment from LNER at the meeting. We expect LNER to honour this commitment and will continue discussions with them on this post-transfer.

As part of the consultation, LNER has now confirmed that all transferring employees will remain in their respective sections of the Railways Pension Scheme (RPS) and LNER will become the designated employer of the scheme. This means your pension arrangement and benefits will not be affected by the transfer to LNER.

Both the Virgin Tribe benefit scheme and the Stagecoach Group Shares scheme will end as a result of the transfer. Any pre-booked or subscription services made prior to 24 June will be honoured until they are due for renewal, and Stagecoach Group Shares scheme members will be written to separately about their options in the near future. Although the current concessionary travel benefits within the Stagecoach Group will be withdrawn, LNER agreed to have further discussions with both Virgin and Stagecoach about arrangements post-transfer in addition to seeking to replicate current reciprocal travel arrangements with GTR and TfL.

The meeting was positive and the clear message from LNER was that they want to ensure a seamless transfer with no adverse impact on staff or the service to customers. We will continue to raise any concerns as they arise over the next few weeks, and 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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