Network Rail today announces that approximately 500 maintenance employees will be leaving the company by the end of May as a result of productivity improvements over the last two years. The 500 people are leaving as part of the company’s voluntary redundancy programme and are in addition to the 235 volunteers who took redundancy in January 2010.
Network Rail currently employs around 18,000 people to maintain the railway but is increasing productivity through improved technology and a newer asset base – track, signalling systems and power supplies. This combination of new infrastructure which needs less maintenance, together with the elimination of over-manning and outdated working practices, is allowing the company to reduce its employee numbers and costs while still maintaining a safe and efficient railway. It is expected that a further 200+ employees will leave the company under the voluntary scheme in the coming months. Network Rail’s planned changes in maintenance have been scrutinised by the UK’s independent safety regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, which supports the proposed changes.
Steve Featherstone, Network Rail’s director of maintenance said, “New infrastructure, new technology and new ways of working mean we can maintain the railway more safely and efficiently than ever before with fewer people. This is good news for the travelling public. More efficient maintenance means more investment in improving stations, opening new lines and adding capacity to allow more and longer trains. It is also good news for our employees – those who are leaving get a severance package and those who remain for the long-term will be part of a flexible and more skilled workforce who can deliver better value for money. That is the best way to safeguard skilled jobs in the future.”
Previously, the RMT leadership had called a maintenance strike for 6-9 April, but abandoned the action when a separate signallers strike was stopped via a High Court injunction. Talks have been held at ACAS in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement, but were adjourned on Monday 19 April and are due to re-start on 22 April. Talks to resolve the separate dispute with signallers resume today.
Steve Featherstone added: “Today’s announcement clearly demonstrates that the pretext of safety for the recent strike call by the RMT leadership was false and just a public relations tactic. When we have completed this year’s voluntary redundancy scheme, we will have a smaller workforce that maintains the railway safely. We urge the RMT leadership to engage in meaningful discussions without resorting to another strike ballot.”