Rail deal set to signal end of industrial strife

A rail company is poised to broker a ground-breaking partnership deal in a sector known for its history of bitter industrial relations.

The proposed agreement between Aslef and Great North Eastern Railway will be the first for a passenger operator in the rail industry and reflects the current climate of a more mature collaboration between unions and employers.

The sector, which still sees regular industrial action, is described as one of the most “inhospitable arenas” for partnership.

HR director at GNER Mike Gooddie, a lead player in the negotiations, said improved training was being discussed, as well as pay. Gooddie said the proposals were about formalising the more “grown up” industrial relations approach that has developed between GNER and Aslef since the days of British Rail.

He initiated the proposed deal before coordinating talks between the union and line managers.

Staff are due to be balloted on the proposed agreement before the end of the year. Gooddie said, “Management has been working to move the company away from the command-and-control culture inherited from British Rail.”

Talks on a package of terms and conditions have been held over the past six months.

Mick Rix, Aslef general secretary, described the proposed deal as “truly ground-breaking in terms of recognition and status for our members”.

But Gooddie said the deal does not depend on the union offering a list of concessions in return for changes to pay and training.

Partnerships involve unions and employers signing a formal agreement pledging to adopt a joint problem solving approach for mutual benefit. High profile agreements signed this year include one between unions and retailer Littlewoods.

Deals are also a means of reconciling employers’ desire for flexible working and unions’ concerns over employment security.

By Helen Rowe

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