RMT union members at Welsh freight yard vote to strike in dispute over safety impact of proposed redundancies

Workers at English Welsh and Scottish (EWS) railway depot at Margam in south Wales have voted for a 24-hour strike in a dispute about redundancies.

Eighteen ground staff at the rail freight operator, members of the RMT union, voted 10 to four in favour of industrial action, citing a move to make almost half of them redundant as “absurd and highly dangerous”.

Engineering staff are also being balloted for industrial action over a redundancy plan under which they will be expected to take on responsibility for the shunting of heavy steel-wagons.

Bob Crow, RMT general secretary, said EWS’s plan to sack 10 ground staff was a cost-cutting measure to maximise profits regardless of the risk.

He said: “The company intends to force the bulk of the shunting onto engineering grades who already have enough demanding work of their own to do, and they have now asked to be balloted as well to defend their safety and conditions.

“[The company’s] supposed criteria for selecting people for sacking include levels of sick leave, but they are well aware that there is a high level of absence due to injuries sustained at work,” Crow added.

EWS, however, said it believed the RMT ballot was flawed as different grades of staff were balloted outside of those involved in the dispute.

EWS said it believed that any industrial action undertaken by RMT would therefore be illegal. “We have informed RMT of this matter and are open to discussions with them,” a spokesperson told Personnel Today.

German rail firm Deutsche Bahn is reported to be close to acquiring EWS for £250m.

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