Tracking the rail dispute

Once again Network Rail and the RMT are at loggerheads, with the threat of a
summer of strikes looming large for passengers across the country. If the
strikes do go ahead, it is expected to cause the worst disruption on the
railways for almost a decade. Personnel Today asked both parties about their
role in the dispute


How would you describe RMT’s relationship with Network Rail at the
current time?

The obvious answer is that it’s very frustrating dealing with the management
at Network Rail. Our members were balloted because management were not
negotiating with us over pay and pensions. When management simply refuses to
negotiate, it leaves us with very little option.

How are you communicating with your members about the dispute?

We send individual letters to our members called ‘personal letters’,
updating people to what stage the negotiations are at. We also produce
newsletters and occasional leaflets on the dispute.

How is the morale of members right now?

Morale among members is good at the moment. There is a collective spirit
among them. That’s what unions are all about.

How frustrating is it dealing with management not listening to your

The company is creating a rod for its own back. [It] can’t just ride
roughshod over our members and expect no reaction.

What lessons have you learnt that you can take forward in the future?

There is not a huge amount that’s new about this dispute. We know there are
certain tricks that management play, such as questioning the legality of the
ballot and the size of the majority. The RMT now has a collective wisdom from
being involved in previous disputes of this nature.

How do you see RMT’s role in Network Rail in the future?

RMT is the largest union and a key representative of the Network Rail
workforce. We see ourselves playing a key role in the future of the company.

Network Rail

How does HR go about communicating the organisation’s message to staff?

All staff are briefed face-to-face, through the use of newsletters and via
the company intranet. During the past few weeks all employees, not just RMT
members, have received two letters detailing the latest offers made to the RMT
on pensions, travel benefits and pay.

How frustrating is it dealing with people seemingly intent on industrial

Frustration is not a key issue. Network Rail and the RMT both have a
respectful relationship, demonstrated by the commencement of talks and
negotiations to avert strike action.

What plans do you have in place to deal with staff concerns during this

We will continue to support the workforce through the usual HR channels and
by delivering open, honest and timely communications.

How do you keep morale up within the company?

Morale remains stable for most employees. Within Network Rail, RMT members
voting for strike action are in the minority of the workforce.

Are there any learning points for HR in these types of situations?

One of the key learning points to date is to deliver effective internal
communications, keep employees involved and keep lines of communication open
with the unions.

By Mike Berry

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