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GWR - Coronavirus

27 March 2020

Firstly thank you to all TSSA members working hard to ensure railways can still run in these exceptional times. I'm writing to update you on the representations made to GWR in the last few weeks on behalf TSSA members but there are also representations happening nationally between our general secretary and the Department for Transport. You can access updates via our website on

 

www.tssa.org.uk/coronavirus

Company council

We were scheduled to hold a full company council meeting on 19 March, as you can appreciate this meeting was cancelled in favour of a conference call between GWR and the full-time officers of the 4 rail unions and the chair of Company council. Since then we have secured agreement to hold weekly conference calls with GWR to keep the lines of communication open.

Clearly there has been a fast pace to the changes that have been put in place and we can understand how this will cause stress and anxiety on the ground and our clear message to the company has been to stress that TSSA’s position nationally is that anyone not required for the safe operation of trains should not be at work for their own and loved ones protection.

Therefore, we have made representations that any barriers to people working from home be resolved quickly for roles that may not be essential to the running of the railways and if that cannot happen for people to be stood down (in the real sense for the word i.e. not expected to cover other grades). As you can appreciate conference calls are held for a limited time and TSSA concentrated on the following groups of staff:

Booking Office, Gateline, Revenue Protection, Clerical Grades (particularly those in Payroll and Retail Accounts).We raised concerns around the difficulty for staff to effectively social distance. Particularly those working on Gatelines and Booking Offices where there are arguably too many staff in work and where they haven’t been provided with any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) so are understandably worried about contracting the virus. We highlighted that face to face training on Gateline competencies was still being planned despite contrary guidance already being issued and that cross cover was being expected without dialogue with the trade unions.

We have also asked for further information on any new Risk Assessments (as we are not aware of Health & Safety reps having been involved in any of these processes as they should be if indeed risk assessments have been carried out). Asked for assurances on job protection, that the temporary measures will be just that once things return to normal. We raised queries and concerns in relation to vulnerable staff or those with vulnerable members within in the household, guidance on annual leave and comp leave and asked for the likes of disciplinary meetings to be put on hold etc

Understandably many of the points have been taken away and we await a response but they have given assurances that these measures are temporary, that they will at least examine the potential to decrease the numbers of staff expected to go into work even if they are do not believe they can close booking offices and leave Gatelines open because of them wanting to maintain levels of security. We have an assurance that TSSA and RMT officers will have a further discussion with the Customer Service and Transformation Director regarding the issues raised above, although I understand as a result of our intervention plans to deliver face to face training was immediately stopped. They have also agreed to review their guidance on facemasks.

I would add that despite us not always agreeing on everything I am aware that the senior management team within GWR are working flat out to respond quickly to the government advice and instructions and therefore I commend them for their hard work and long hours that they are working. It has to be recognised that they have stood down some groups of our members such as Customer Ambassadors, reduced the working hours of many management grades or enabled them to work from home so we appreciate these efforts to minimise the risk to our members. If you have any issues or concerns that you do not feel are being covered then please contact your reps or email Alan Valentine by clicking here

Post Coronavirus

Despite us being proactive and seeking to resolve as many issues as possible when we become aware of them, inevitably there will be issues that will still need resolved once some form of normality resumes. I would ask that you raise concerns in writing with your management and seek to resolve issues with them in the first instance and if you cannot get them resolved that you then see if your representatives can assist you with these issues.

The uncertainty in respect of the Direct Award (DA3) means that we need members to step up to fill vacant Staff Reps positions, Health and Safety Representatives, Equality Reps Union Learning Representatives etc so that we can plan for any eventuality and fully support all of our members in Management, Clerical, Stations and Revenue Protection Grades. If there is a need for a TUPE transfer, then we will be calling particularly on Managers to get in contact to be trained and supported in advance of any consultations.

As always our priority is to the loyal TSSA members who recognise the worth of supporting the collective efforts of TSSA for the good of all. However, I would still ask you to ‘virtually’ encourage colleagues who are not union members to recognise that the trade union isn’t just there in a crisis but there to advise and support 365 days a year. Please encourage them to join online at www.tssa.org.uk/join

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