WORKERS on Virgin Trains East Coast are to stage three 24-hour strikes, including one on Bank Holiday Monday, in a row over jobs, working conditions and safety.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out from 3am on August 19, 26 and 29, and will ban overtime for 48 hours from August 27.
The company said it would run a full timetable during the strikes.
Virgin East Coast runs services from York, Leeds and Doncaster to London and Edinburgh.
It is the latest outbreak of industrial action on the railways after RMT members on Eurostar launched a four-day walkout on Friday following strikes earlier in the week at Southern Railway.
The RMT said almost 200 jobs are threatened at Virgin Trains East Coast.
A statement said: “The ongoing dispute came to a head as the company chose to ignore the agreed negotiating machinery and subjected staff to a barrage of direct propaganda justifying their attempts to bulldoze through a package of cash-led measures that would decimate jobs, working conditions and threaten the safety regime that currently ensures a guard on every train.”
The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “RMT will not sit back while nearly 200 members’ jobs are under threat and while conditions and safety are put at risk by a franchise which is clearly in financial trouble.
“We will also not tolerate the cavalier attitude to safety that is now on show as the company mobilises its scab army of managers.
“Our members are being subject to outrageous intimidation and bullying as their trains are commandeered as part of the scabbing process.
“RMT is aware that VTEC management are putting out regular propaganda messages to their employees, to justify the company’s attempts to attack job security, terms and conditions of employment and current working practices.
“Long-standing agreements between our two organisations dictate that the company must negotiate with RMT, as a recognised trade union to those agreements, yet the company say these changes are a consultative process.
“Any changes to staff terms and conditions are negotiable matters.
“The company have chosen to treat the negotiations as a game thus far, merely going through the motions of pretending they did not yet know what their plans entailed. To behave like that is to treat the union and its members with pure contempt.
“Our members will not pay the price for a crisis cooked up in the Virgin/Stagecoach boardroom.”
The RMT said the dispute involves around 1,800 of its members, including guards, station staff and some drivers. Depot maintenance workers will not be taking strike action.
Virgin Trains reassured customers that it will run a full timetable during the industrial action, and accused the union of walking out of talks.
“The strikes take into account the August bank holiday weekend, with the union seeking to inconvenience as many families taking well-earned breaks as possible,” it said in a statement.
“Our detailed contingency plans, however, mean the timetable will run as normal.
“Virgin Trains is making changes to customer-facing roles which will see a single person take responsibility for the customer experience on our trains.
“This will have no impact on safety, and will result in a better experience for customers. Virgin Trains has also given assurances on each point raised by the union at the start of the dispute - such as ruling out any compulsory redundancies as a result of the changes.”
David Horne, managing director for Virgin Trains on the east coast, said: “We have worked hard to ensure there are comprehensive contingency plans in place and I want to reassure our customers that our timetable will be unaffected during these walkouts, as well as during any subsequent strikes by the RMT.
“The changes we are making are part of the customer-centric revolution we have planned for the east coast. We’re already halfway through our complete refresh of our trains with all-new interiors being rolled out, and in two years will have our brand-new Azuma trains coming into service.
“Alongside more modern trains, we want a modern customer service proposition - one that focuses firmly on the customer.
“With our guarantees that there will be no compulsory redundancies, no impact on safety and a full timetable in place during the walkouts, these strikes will cost RMT members pay for no reason, and we urge the union to rejoin us around the negotiating table.”