First North Western

05 September 2005

Strike Bulletin

Information for ASLEF Members

First North Western 2002 Pay Dispute


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The November referendum result (see below) vindicated the ASLEF position that until proper negotiations start, with a view to addressing the disparities between First North Western members and their colleagues on other train operating companies, an acceptable deal is not achievable.

The Executive Committee has established Friday 13 December 2002 as a timetable to which both parties are to work towards achieving a negotiated settlement on pay and terms of conditions.

At the time of writing, ASLEF representatives have contacted Vernon Barker (Managing Director, First North Western), seeking an early resumption of pay negotiations, and arrangements are being made for a series of meetings starting during the week commencing Monday 25 November.

Members will be kept fully informed on the progress of these negotiations and any other matters that may arise.


Referendum Result

The First North Western 2002 Pay (Revised Offer October 2002) referendum closed on Tuesday 19 November 2002.

The referendum was conducted by the independent Scrutineers Electoral Reform Ballot Services. The result of voting was as follows:

Question: - Do you accept the First North Western Revised Offer?

Number of Papers returned=576

Number found to be spoiled=1

Number voting YES=214 (37.2%)

Number voting NO=361 (62.8%)


Further Strike Dates Set

In the event of FNW failing to make an acceptable offer by Friday 13 November 2002, statutory notice has been served on First North Western to the effect that members will be taking further industrial action for periods of 48 hours on:- 

OO.O1 hours on Saturday 14 December 2002 to 23.59 hours on Sunday 15 December 2002.

OO.O1 hours on Saturday 21 December 2002 to 23.59 hours on Sunday 22 December 2002.


First Group finances

FirstGroup, the parent company of First North Western, featured heavily in the financial papers during November, coinciding with the release of the company’s results for the six months to the end of September 2002.

Key points arising from this financial data include the staggering fact that interim turnover exceeded £1 billion, thereby leading to a similar valuation of the company’s total worth.

Almost inevitably, this was a consequence of increased operating profits, rising to £84.4 million, the reduction of so-called ‘net debt’ and ‘strong cash generation’ amounting to some £133.5 million.

Company press releases led on the payment of share dividends (increased by 7.6 percent) and chief executive Moir Lockhead’s statement that the strong cash flow left the company ‘well placed to invest for growth’.

Unfortunately, none of the financial papers queried whether this ‘investment’ would be directed towards FirstGroup workers.


Levy and Solidarity

Money continues to be received at Head Office from ASLEF members contributing to the FNW strike levy established by the Executive Committee with an initial donation of £10,000.

In addition, other trade unions and individual trade unionists have sent money and messages of solidarity, including the FBU, NASUWT, NUM and UCATT.

Individual ASLEF and Branch messages of solidarity have also been received at Head Office, particularly from those members who have themselves experienced industrial action.

Two notable messages of solidarity have been received from Brighton Branch, and from Edinburgh No.2 Branch.

The Brighton Branch letter was reprinted in the November 2002 issue of the Locomotive Journal, and made direct comparisons with their ‘Connex Experience’ and the performance of FNW management. 

The letter related how management at Connex South Central sought to denigrate ASLEF representatives and divide the members.

Despite three years (1996 to 1999) of enduring this approach to industrial relations, improvements to pay and conditions were obtained and ultimately to the relief of members, the franchise was lost.

The message from all letters of support and solidarity remains – 
unity is strength.

Strategic Rail Authority

By now, members are well aware of the ‘wrecking role’ played by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) during this dispute. The SRA have gone out of their way to frustrate attempts to reach an acceptable offer and a negotiated settlement. 

ASLEF is increasingly encountering this wrecking role in our negotiations on pay and conditions with other train operating companies. Most recently, negotiations with Wales & Borders have led to a ballot for industrial action.

If the future agenda of the SRA is to attack the pay aspirations and working conditions of our members, the signs are that we are potentially entering the first stages of a national dispute.

In this sense, the struggle for a fair rate of pay for FNW members, has been at the beginning of a bigger battle, namely to marry the professionalism and expertise required to do the job - with the rate of pay it deserves.

Members are once again to be congratulated for the support they have shown each other and their elected representatives.

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