Rail workers ballot for strike over fire and rehire plans

Rail maintenance workers at Wabtec in Doncaster will be balloted for strike action over the company’s “disgraceful” fire and rehire plans later this month according to union Unite.

More than 150 workers will be balloted until 23 May over fire and rehire plans, which will apparently see breaks cut and staff having to work extra hours, including at the end of their shift, for no extra pay.

Unite also claims  the company is offering a two-year below inflation pay deal if the workers agree to the new terms and conditions, with inflation (RPI) running at nine percent, the union says this is a two-year pay cut.

US engineering giant Wabtec has reportedly told workers that if they do not voluntarily agree to the changes they will be fired and rehired onto the new contracts.

Unite is concerned that pressure is being put on the workers to accept fire and rehire, with the union claiming that in the last two weeks, members have been called into one-to-ones with management and told they have a week to say yes to the proposals.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “There is no justification for Wabtec’s disgraceful fire and rehire plans. This is a very profitable company but it is demanding that workers work longer for less or they’ll be sacked. This is an abhorrence – it is undisguised corporate greed and we will oppose it all the way.

“Our members are crystal clear that they will not accept these attacks on their terms and conditions. If they vote for strike action, Unite will be on hand with maximum support.”

Unite regional officer Harriet Eisner called for Wabtec whose team in Doncaster maintains rail stock, to drop its plans and “return to the negotiating table with a proper pay offer”.

Wabtec has yet to respond to requests for comment.

The news comes two years after Wabtec announced plans to let go almost half of staff at its Doncaster site as it looked to realign the business amidst a changing market.