Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Express Parcels and International Freight Courier Staff to Strike

Union Announces One Week Stoppage From Tuesday
Shipping News Feature

UK - Express parcels and international freight courier outfit City Link is due to see a walk out by hundreds of staff from 00.01 hours on Tuesday 24th September to 23.59 hours on Monday 30th September 2013 according to the RMT union. The union claims the seven day stoppage is the result of a dispute over pay, working conditions and ‘an attempt by the company management to bulldoze through changes to contracts’. City Link management believe that the amount of staff actually involved in the dispute should not disrupt the company’s normal operations and is proposing Court action against the union.

Rentokil, which owned City Link, famously sold off the parcels company to private equity house, Better Capital in April for £1, a certain indicator if ever there was one that changes were necessary. The company then contracted supply chain consultants Davies & Robson to advise on how to improve efficiencies accompanied by a statement that the new owners had allocated £40 million to invest in the operation.

It was reported that Davies & Robson concentrated on increasing efficiency, particularly where the long haul (depot to depot) services were involved and it is believed continue to assist whilst their proposals are implemented but any attempt to streamline procedures has now met with outright animosity from the union. Statements have been issued by both the RMT and City Link and could not put the case any more differently. A statement issued by the RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“The assault on pay and conditions by the new, private equity owners of City Link has sparked a surge in recruitment and hundreds of workers are now actively engaged in the fight back at City Link depots across the country. The company should be under no illusions, their workforce are up for this fight.

“The massive majority in favour of strike action shows that RMT members at City Link will not stand by and take this bullying attempt to force new contracts down their throats by the asset-strippers from Better Capital. RMT is fighting back with a two-pronged strategy involving industrial action and public campaigning.

“The battle at City Link is a national fight against a high-profile company and represents an important campaign for the whole trade union movement against private equity companies who think they can treat their workers like dirt. As always RMT remains available for meaningful talks.”

According to City Link the company has indeed received notification from the RMT that its members in the company intend to commence strike action as detailed above. The company are at pains to point out that, despite Mr Crow’s ‘massive majority’ only a small minority of City Link employees (12%) are RMT members and less than half of these appear to have actually supported the union’s ballot. Whilst the majority of RMT members employed decided not to engage in the union’s ballot those that did returned a majority, namely 157 Drivers and 91 warehouse staff. Scott Maynard, HR Director, City Link, put the company’s case, saying:

"We have been consulting with our front line colleagues since June over a series of measures aimed squarely at making their pay and conditions fairer and more equitable. At the moment we are in the position where colleagues doing the same job in the same depot are getting paid different wages. This is a legacy that the current management team has inherited and is one we believe is fundamentally unfair. The proposals we have put forward will resolve this while ensuring that the vast majority of colleagues see no reduction in their pay packet or actually get an increase.

"It is our considered view that the RMT ballot was fundamentally flawed and that any strike action on the back of it would be illegal. We have made the RMT aware of our concerns on a number of occasions without any meaningful response from them, regrettably, we are now left with no other choice than to pursue this matter through the courts. The service we offer to our customers is central to our new strategy so City Link is putting in place robust contingency plans to ensure there is no adverse affect on them in the event of any strike action taking place.”

Editors Note: Since publication we have been advised that the advisory works undertaken by Davies & Robson, now or in the past, in no way contributed to the current situation with regard to the labour dispute, the origins of which precede the company's involvement.