Monday, October 19, 2015

Strike Destined to Rain on Multimodal and Rail Group's 50th Celebrations

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UK – In an ironic twist comes the news that Freightliner, Britain’s largest rail maritime intermodal freight operator, is to celebrate half a century of operations, on the same day in which the RMT union chose to spoil the party by announcing a two day strike this week in a protest over pay. November 12 will see the anniversary marked by an event at the National Rail Museum in York, where the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt. Hon. Patrick McLoughlin MP, will deliver a key note speech.

It is fifty years since the running of the first train which ran from London to Glasgow following the company’s creation in 1965 as the container arm of British Rail, the nationalised rail operator responsible for most passenger and freight railway services in Great Britain at the time. In 1996, after three decades as part of both British Rail and the National Freight Corporation, Freightliner was sold through a management buyout (with the backing of 3i and Electra). This move was part of the wider privatisation of the UK rail infrastructure and operations.

Since privatisation, Freightliner has seen strong growth and says it has diversified beyond deep sea intermodal traffic with the creation of several subsidiaries, including Freightliner Heavy Haul, Logico, Freightliner Maintenance, Freightliner Poland and Freightliner Australia. The Group also completed the acquisition of ERS Railways in the Netherlands and, most recently, expanded into the Middle East in the form of a UK consortium.

Earlier this year, Freightliner was acquired by Genesee & Wyoming, a US based owner of short line and regional freight railroads serving more than 2,000 customers over 15,000 miles of track in five countries. Freightliner Chief Executive Russell Mears said:

“Our 50 year anniversary is a significant achievement. Freightliner is a respected, premium rail brand and our staff, some of whom have been with the company for over 40 years, are proud to be part of a successful organisation with such a rich history.’’

Apparently not all staff however as the RMT claims almost 500 of its members are to take strike action from 00:01 hours on October 22 to one minute to midnight the following day arguing this is necessary to demand pay justice following what it says was an overwhelming ballot vote for industrial action. The 48-hour action will affect Freightliner Ltd and Freightliner Railport and RMT general secretary Mick Cash commented:

“We demand nothing less than a substantial improvement and parity with other grades. The whole point of this dispute is to demand equality and fair treatment to all whatever your job is and no two-tier workforce. The solidarity and determination of those workers involved in the dispute has been incredible and we are determined to win pay justice.”