Changes could include profit share and boardroom influence

 

The proposals reflect concern in the DfT that background industrial relations are partly responsible for recent strikes at Southern

 

The Department for Transport has set out initial ideas on how the rail industry could form a new approach to industrial relations to smooth the introduction of new technology and changes to employees’ roles.

They include employee profit share schemes, staff involvement in developing business strategy and giving staff freedom to take day-to-day decisions that benefit passengers.

Calling for a new relationship with staff in the DfT’s consultation on the next Southeastern franchise, transport secretary Chris Grayling insisted that change is needed so staff can respond better to customers’ needs, and acknowledged that the industry has to give them more in return.

“I want to see greater staff involvement in running the company for which they work, including strategic decision making at the highest levels and, potentially, sharing in the success of the service,” he said.

The consultation also made clear that staff should have more freedom, better support from management and better training so they can assist passengers more effectively, particularly during delays. 

The proposals reflect concern in the DfT (PT154) that background industrial relations are partly responsible for recent strikes at Southern, Merseyrail and Northern over plans to introduce driver only operation, as well as recognition in the rail industry of the need for a shift from command and control management (PT155).

During the new Southeastern franchise which begins in 2018, the DfT indicated that it would support a number of changes to the way staff work. They include proposals that have already sparked disputes with the
RMT union including revising station staffing arrangements to reflect the large number of passengers switching to new ticketing technology. The DfT also indicated that it would support further changes to improve service quality and efficiency. They include greater staff availability when customers need it most, for example in the peak and during disruption, balanced with reduced staffing at quieter periods.

Although the DfT said it would expect the new Southeastern franchise to significantly increase the use of new technology to improve customer experience, it stressed that the government recognises the value passengers place on a strong staff presence to provide assistance, reassurance and combat anti-social behaviour.

 

This article appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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