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More East Midlands Trains Strikes

East Midlands TrainsEast Midlands Trains drivers walked out yesterday for their fifth industrial action in a row over changes to pensions. Independent experts had recommended that the drivers don’t need to contribute an extra £500 per year to the scheme anymore, which will save them money without impacting their benefits.

During the strike, East Midlands Trains was operating a skeleton service on its route between Sheffield and London, while its Liverpool-Norwich service through Sheffield wasn’t running. The drivers are also planning to strike again tomorrow for the sixth time this month. The company says it plans to run more services during the walkout.

East Midlands Trains has slammed the negotiating team from the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Fishermen (ASLEF) for rejecting its proposals to end the dispute during a meeting last week without consulting the drivers first. Human resources director Clare McCartney says train drivers are asking them why the union is denying them the right to decide on the proposals to resolve the row. They have never understood why the drivers were being encouraged by the union to strike for less pay.

McCartney added that the drivers are being misled by Aslef into losing another £200 every day they walk off the job. Their proposals would increase the pay their employees take home and increase their pension benefits. Rather than keep its members in the dark, the union needs to be honest about the proposals and let the workers decide.

A spokesman for Aslef said that their pensions are their retirement security. They have paid for them since they started working, and they can’t sit around while they are devalued. East Midlands Trains says that they are being kind by saving staff £500 per year in money they don’t have to contribute to the fund, but this is very misleading. They don’t want to cheapen the fund. The company doesn’t mention that it saves £750 per year per driver in the shared cost, which means £1,250 less will be contributed to the pension fund. Total, they estimate the company will save £2.1 million. This means the pension scheme will be worth less, and everyone’s pensions will be worth less.

Meanwhile, Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union representatives say they have made it clear to East Midlands Trains management that reducing the pensions contributions is irresponsible during a time when the scheme investments and economic environment are volatile. General secretary Bob Crow says it’s clear the biggest winner will be the train operator, even though its members will receive a small financial gain from the decision. They believe that the company’s savings will be around £750,000 a year.

Crow added that the short-term measure may have serious long-term implications on the pension fund’s health due to volatile financial markets being on their way down amid the Eurozone crisis. Although the union has opposed the contribution reductions, East Midlands Trains management continue to go ahead with the decision despite these concerns. It’s their opinion that the refusal to withdraw is irresponsible and only serves to fill shareholders’ pockets.

East Midlands Trains managing director David Horne says the announcement from RMT, that it will ballot its members, is very unhelpful and will cause more uncertainty among passengers. The fact is that the pension fund is in good health and the new contributions have been recommended by independent experts.

Horne added that it doesn’t make sense that RMT is asking its members to join their Aslef colleagues in the strike for less pay and the loss of hundreds of pounds. If the union really has its members’ interests at heart, it will work with them to ensure they benefit from more take-home pay and pensions benefits. They urge RMT’s members to vote against the industrial action and press the union to get back to the negotiating table.




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