Thursday, October 6, 2011

UK Container Freight Under Threat from Strike Action by Intermodal Company Managers

Freightliner and RMT Are at it Again Over Pay and Conditions
Shipping News Feature

UK - RMT, the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, announced last night that they will be taking a ballot amongst their management grade members at Freightliner Intermodal to vote on industrial action, and potentially a strike, to fight for what they term ‘a fair increase in rates of pay and improvements to conditions of service’. Freightliner has a virtual monopoly on rail freight container transport out of the main cargo rail terminal at the Port of Southampton and is the country’s largest haulier of boxes by rail, moving 20% of the country’s maritime import containers.

Freightliner were in the process of preparing a statement when we contacted them but, for their part, the union said that an offer which has been made by the company to managerial staff was less than that offered to all other grades within the company and does not represent a fair reward for the duties and responsibilities of this particular group of their members. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:

“As a result of Freightliner Intermodal’s failure to meet our members’ aspirations and commit to dealing with excess unpaid overtime, the matter has been subject to consideration by RMT’s executive and we have decided that we have no option but to ballot for action.

“The company’s current offer to our management grade members would mean a further deterioration in pay differentials in relation to non management grades and that is wholly unacceptable. “The ballot will begin on Friday 7th October and RMT remains available for further talks with the company to tackle the issues at the heart of this dispute.”

Unless there are any dramatic developments the ballot will close on the 20th October when a decision regarding action will be taken by the union. With Freightliner Intermodal moving around one thousand TEU per day out of Southampton alone a strike could cause problems for many importers but provide opportunities for other rail and road haulage outfits.

Relations between the company and the union are frequently turbulent. Last year Freightliner dismissed six staff allegedly over the misuse of a company vehicle and later reinstated three of them. A ballot to strike over the dismissals, one of the staff was a union representative, was successfully challenged in the Courts leading to a second ballot.

The company has been plagued by industrial action for some years since Bob Crow accused bosses of ‘daylight robbery’ over sales of stock, since which time the threat of strikes at the company seems to be becoming a default position.