LONDON (Reuters) - Eurostar train managers have voted to take strike action over working hours, two unions said on Thursday, threatening cross-channel rail services in the run-up to Christmas.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association said the dispute centred on new roster patterns which they say have been imposed without consultation. RMT members voted 60 to 4 for strike action and 58 to 6 for action short of a strike on an 83 percent turnout. TSSA members voted 11 to 4 for strike action and 12 to 3 for action short on a 94 percent turnout.
Both unions urged management to drop the rosters and return to negotiations to avoid disruption over the holiday period.
“Our members have told the company very clearly that imposing unfair and unequal rosters is no way to reward staff who did all they could to help Eurostar get back to normal after the recent Channel tunnel fire,” said RMT General Secretary Bob Crow, referring to September’s blaze.
Eurostar said in a statement it had already met with, and would continue to talk to, the unions to resolve the dispute.
It added the rosters and shift patterns were introduced after services were disrupted by the fire in September, and they fully met the conditions of contract for all Eurostar UK train managers.
“We are extremely disappointed that our UK train managers have decided on this course of action and at this time, and we will make every effort to ensure our travellers face no further disruption in the busy period up to Christmas and the New Year,” Customers Services Director Marc Noaro said.
Eurostar services are handled by France’s SNCF railway and Belgium’s SNCB on their respective territories, but the UK arm is owned by London and Continental Railways (LCR) and managed by a consortium including bus and train operator National Express, SNCF, SNCB and British Airways.
Reporting by Frank Prenesti and Paul Sandle