Passengers using the C2C rails line between London and Southend are set for considerable disruption over the coming weeks as maintenance engineers employed by Alstom take strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.
Strikes are due to begin tomorrow (Monday 9 May) with further action scheduled for 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 30 May and 3 June. Disruption to services is likely on both the strike days and on days following the strike action. An overtime ban is also in force.
The workers are taking action following a series of attacks on their pay and condition and concerns about high sickness and low morale at Alstom, the French company that bought Bombardier in 2020.
The workers recorded a 95 per cent yes vote in favour of strike action.
Alstom has offered just 2.5 per cent on pay (backdated February 2021), which, at well below the measure of real inflation of nine percent (RPI), Unite says is a pay cut.
In 2021, Alstom reported net profits of 172 million euros. Managers recently received a 10 per cent pay increase.
The company is also removing on-call payments for the workers and staff travel permits, forcing a change in shift patterns which reduces annual leave and has reduced the holiday entitlement for new starters.
Workers report low morale and with very high levels of sickness related to a bullying culture at the company.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “While managers are to enjoy a 10 per cent increase in pay, Alstom workers are seeing their terms and conditions being attacked and are being offered a pay cut. This is simply unacceptable to Unite.
“This is a hugely profitable company – there is no case whatsoever for these cuts which are being driven by Alstom’s greed.
“Alstom needs to register the strength of feeling among our members who are determined to protect their pay and conditions, with the total support of their union.”
The 43-plus workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, are based at depots in East Ham and Shoeburyness and are responsible for maintaining and monitoring the trains for C2C.
Unite has been involved in long-running negotiations to resolve this dispute but the company has failed to table proposals that meet members’ expectations.
Unite national officer Harish Patel said: “This dispute will inevitably cause considerable disruption for passengers using the C2C line but this dispute is entirely of Alstom’s own making. Workers are taking strike action because they feel they have nothing left to lose.
“Unite has put forward proposals to resolve this dispute but these have been dismissed by the company. Even at the late stage disruption to rail passengers can be minimised by the employer returning to the negotiating table and making a realistic offer.”