Statement from Andy Mellors, Managing Director Non-Franchised Businesses, FirstGroup Rail Division.
We are extremely disappointed with RMT’s decision to take wholly avoidable industrial action at a time when people have been looking forward to travelling with Hull Trains again. RMT have announced that they will start to take industrial action from next week with strike action planned for Sunday 8th August and for subsequent Sundays throughout the remainder of the month.
We have been engaging with union representatives and consulting extensively with members about closing the Company’s final salary pension scheme since October 2020 and we have explained why we believe our proposals are essential. As a direct result of the feedback received during the consultation, we revised our offer to include an additional company contribution for those employees who are existing members of the scheme we are proposing to close.
RMT consulted with their members and unfortunately, they chose to vote for industrial action against the proposed pension changes a few months ago.
More recently, after additional discussions with the RMT, we proposed further increases to the maximum level of company contribution up to 15% of salary which is in line with existing company contributions to the final salary scheme we are proposing to close. Further engagement with RMT has since taken place and we are still prepared to continue discussions with the aim of reaching an agreement.
It is particularly disappointing that RMT have refused to put the increased offer to their members as a referendum ballot.
In the last year, we have had to take some extremely difficult decisions to safeguard services that are vital to the people and economy of Hull and East Yorkshire. Unlike other rail operators, we did not receive any financial support from the government when we had to suspend services on three separate occasions due to the pandemic. This continues to have a major impact on Hull Trains financially with customer demand still only at around 60% of pre-pandemic volumes and not expected to return to previous levels for some time. Changes to the pension arrangements are essential in order to preserve the future viability of our business.
We have prepared contingency plans to run a near normal service and keep any disruption to a minimum. We would encourage all passengers to keep checking for updates on the Hull Trains website and social media channels.