Rail strike ballot over catalogue of safety breaches

Published on Tuesday, 04 December 2012 10:19
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Rail union RMT confirmed today that it is balloting for industrial action over safety after a series of recent incidents shone the spotlight on corner-cutting and the drive for profit at the expense of safety on the Network Rail High-Output Electrification contract run for NR by the Amey Colas Joint Venture (ACJV).

In one recent incident reported by the union a track worker had the fingertips from 3 fingers cut off when a high output renewals machine went over his hand at Watford.

On Friday 5th October, on the East Midlands ACJV there was a serious near miss involving a train which management admits in a briefing could very easily have proved fatal. A member of track staff was in the process of lifting detonator protection from a line blockage when he noticed a train approaching and was forced to jump clear to avoid being hit.

The managers briefing note admits that this was the third in a series of ACJV serious incidents which include a failure to connect circuit cable causing a circuit failure and train delays and 200 clips being left missing on a thousand meter section of track

Other incidents raised by RMT with Network Rail and its contractors include:

  • 15th September 2012: a ballast regulator operated with single member of staff during industrial action. Regulator requires two staff to operate otherwise the track condition may be unsafe
  • 9th October 2012: trolley placed on an open running line. Train was on the approach to the section.
  • 16th October 2012: near miss with a group of staff walking in what they believed to be a protected area, only clear of the line for 10 seconds before a 100mph train passed their location.

The specific incidents are right at the heart of the current dispute and are in addition to a range of general issues raised with Network Rail and the Amey/Colas Joint Venture:

  • A failure to consider, plan, establish and then brief out to their staff a simple safe system of work (SSOW).
  • Staff undertaking work for which they are not competent to carry out.
  • Workers being subjected to a culture of fear – a fear that if they do speak out on safety they will not be given any further work.
  • Underreporting of accidents.
  • Concerns over the safety implications of long hours.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

"The travelling public have a right to know what the real impact of cost-cutting and privatization means on our railways and this catalogue of incidents and near misses paints a grim picture. RMT members are sick and tired of the corner cutting and dash for profits which is undermining safety on the tracks.

"RMT's executive has now decided to call a ballot for industrial action to bring a halt to the dangerous gamble in the name of profit which is taking place daily out there on the tracks on the High-Output joint venture. RMT is available for direct and meaningful talks that are designed to end this dispute rather than prevaricate and kick the issues into the long grass."

Source: ©RMT

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