As the rail dispute intensifies, we’re hearing stories from people working across the railway family about their experiences.
Yesterday, I spoke to Gemma, a member of station staff working for Southeastern, who is considering leaving the job she’s done for the past eight years to work in Lidl on similar pay and safer working conditions.It’s not the job I started, it’s changed so much in a short space of time.
As platform staff, Gemma’s salary is around £24,000. She could earn £13.80 an hour stacking shelves on night shifts in supermarket chain Lidl in what she considers to be a “much safer” environment.
Gemma is a mum of three, and she explained that when working on stations, you can sometimes be the only person and it doesn’t feel safe. In our chat, she wondered how many times in a supermarket you would have to go and break up a fight, comparing it to her current job where she has to do that on almost a daily basis. She said that element of the job has got so much worse recently. For Gemma, one of the attractions of being in a supermarket, would be being inside and having security, so she wouldn’t have the same risks.
Gemma also said that rumours of ticket office closures, a move to seven day working and lack of pay rises was also behind her decision. She told me she and her colleagues are open to change as long as they are treated fairly. But she felt strongly that if ticket offices close, it’ll be awful. Her view is that those staff are needed. “They don’t even do timetables anymore – try explaining to a 90 year old they need to go online to find out train times” she said to me, pointing out that not everyone is internet savvy.
A colleague who also works as station staff at Southeastern added: “Ten years ago these were considered well paid jobs. They’re really not anymore. I know lots of people who are looking for work elsewhere, people are struggling to pay their bills.”