Why are Northern allowed to cancel Sunday Services seemingly at will?

Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Puffing Devil, 20 Apr 2019.

  1. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    You could say that about anything. What if you booked annual leave and plans changed? You may not be allowed to cancel that, depending on the situation.

    Of course the TOC could offer that it will, if it can, release your commitment. But it has to be give and take.

    As for legitimising it, that ship is most of the way across the Atlantic.
     
  2. underbank

    underbank Member

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    How is that different from a normally rostered working day?
     
  3. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Well, quite.

    The thing that is unreasonable (and I speak as a volunteer in Scouting myself) is changing something like that permanently on such short notice. If we planned to change our Scout nights, we would be consulting on it and discussing it with parents months up front. If it was just for this week, then she misses it this week - that's life, and unless they weren't nice people they would understand that it isn't possible for working people generally to change our work schedules at a drop of a hat, so while the change may have been unavoidable they'd recognise that, being reasonable, it will mean a low attendance that week.
     
  4. ComUtoR

    ComUtoR Established Member

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    I have no commitment to work any of my rest days. Even if I did, we do ours on a weekly basis. Getting someone to commit a month in advance is a pretty big request. Getting the company to pay you even if you didn't work it, is also another huge ask. When plans change on my booked days then I have to suck it up because that is the nature of employment. I know every single rest day between now and December. Any day I have to commit to starts to impact my flexibility.

    They don't really have a choice. I simply wouldn't turn up.

    The problem with having these kind of agreements is that it also creates a situation where you start to limit your availability. The way ours work is that you have to put in available or not available. If you push that kind of commitment on a monthly basis then you may find that your pool of 'available' starts to become limited because people don't plan that far in advance or need flexibility in their personal life. You also need to budget for that commitment. How many do you allow to commit in advance ? How much forward planning to you allow for ? If your roster is built and everyone is planned to be working, do you need rest day work or do you commit to it just in case something happens ?

    There is also a punitive element to it. If you had a Driver who always committed to working their rest days but blew them in last minute each time, does that become a disciplinary action ? Do you then refuse any commitments from that Driver ?
     
  5. sprunt

    sprunt Member

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    So now we'll go back to "Don't rely on rest day working then." and the rail industry will come up with more excuses why it and it alone is unable to employ sufficient staff to provide the service it's contracted to provide.
     
  6. underbank

    underbank Member

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    The answer does seem to be to employ more staff AND make Sundays part of the normal working week.

    How do existing staff feel about losing the "perk" of being able to work on their rest days? Assuming enough staff are employed to provide a proper 7 day service, then surely that means that working rest days would become the exception rather than the norm so the wages of drivers across the board would reduce due to not being needed to work as many rest days?
     
  7. baz962

    baz962 Established Member

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    I think that possibly the problem may have been driver's going sick last minute , due to beautiful weather and a long weekend. That may not be the case , but if it was , then how do you legislate for that.
     
  8. CaptainHaddock

    CaptainHaddock Established Member

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    Same as most companies do - monitor staff with a poor attendance record and take disciplinary action if they're repeatedly knocking sick without good reason.
     
  9. baz962

    baz962 Established Member

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    Possibly , but once a year over Easter , or less if the weather isn't so good some year's , and maybe ten driver's doing it this year and a different ten the next would probably not constitute repeatedly.
     
  10. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    People who are dishonest enough to "pull sickies" are invariably going to do it more than once, whereas people who are not dishonest won't do it at all (I won't, as it's basically fraud - obtaining pecuniary advantage - sick pay - through deception - saying you're sick when you're not). It won't take much stats work to notice very high level of short term sickness and to ask those people for more evidence when they do go sick.
     
  11. baz962

    baz962 Established Member

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    Maybe , maybe not . Anyway it's not too hard to provide evidence anyhow is it. Doctor's cannot disprove such inflictions as a bad back , and an old doctor of mine 25 year's ago used to ask if I wanted a sick note as a matter of regularity . I always declined , others may not.
     
  12. underbank

    underbank Member

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    Surely the employer would treat it exactly the same as if someone rang in sick on one of their normal working days? I.e. whatever monitoring/disciplinary system they have in place to deal with employees suspected of pulling fake sickies.

    I'd imagine the employer will take action if someone is regularly sick on a Monday or a Friday, so the same should apply if they regularly phone in sick on Sundays which they've previously agreed to work.
     
  13. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    I don't claim to have the answer to that. However I'd make a few suggestions:
    1) Poor management leading to poor industrial relations
    2) The railway being run without full resources being in place, leading to goodwill being required from staff on a regular basis, which makes it hard to manage performance issues when the next day a favour will be required
    3) Staff ultimately having the upper hand because of the time and cost of recruitment/training, and the fact that the entry requirements are themselves stringent which reduces the supply of labour
    4) Shiftwork, rosters and extreme shifts, which means staff have less time to see their families compared to other industries.
    5) An industry that often moves the goalposts, so people sign up to something and then find the company wants to change things on a half-baked basis, often for no good reason other than new management making their mark.

    What you'll find is that the newbies would be working near enough *every* Sunday, so unless you're going to contract them on that basis, perhaps with a clause that they can more to move mixed rest days as and when people leave, they'll be stuck with that, which I don't think is sustainable. As people leave this will ease the issue as eventually all the people on new contracts will become the majority, however how do you make this work on a roster basis? Change the roster every time someone retires and a person on the new contract takes their place? At some locations this process will take decades due to slow turnover. Rosters and shiftwork are difficult enough to plan round as it, without introducing all this complication.

    The answer is simple, namely a 7-day roster with everyone on the same terms. However this takes us back round in a big circle to where we started, that seemingly no one wants to pay for that as it requires significantly more drivers.

    There we go, the fact that you and many others have the same mindset is why we have an issue.

    But presumably you didn't... ;)
     
    Last edited: 23 Apr 2019
  14. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    But if a shop, cinema or restaurant was short staffed, would you necessarily actually know about it?

    The difference with some operational railway grades is that it doesn't take many staff being unavailable, for whatever reason, before there's a very noticeable impact on the service. In the case of drivers (or guards) this impact is quite simple - services get cancelled.

    It's worth remembering that it doesn't take many crews to be unavailable before there's quite an impact. Especially at weekends, where coverage is already generally planned more tightly than in the week in order to minimise the number of duties in the first place. One duty may well involve multiple trains, and then there's the knock-on impact that unless the train can be conveniently laid over for the portion of its diagram where there's no driver available, you have the issue of getting that train out the way, which may then impact on other crews, likewise you might end up with the train stuck at A with no one to take it forward to B, but the next crew waiting at B but now with no train to take because the train is stuck at A.

    Signalling and control grades are similar - a year or two ago about a third of the Underground was brought to a standstill because of two control staff requiring a 30-minute meal relief.

    I can guarantee that over Easter there's been other parts of the industry operating with minimal levels of staffing, however this isn't always immediately obvious to the end user.
     
  15. jon0844

    jon0844 Veteran Member

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    I read about massive issues with short staffing at some Merlin theme parks over the weekend due to excessive crowds and a mix of too few staff for the time of year (Easter isn't as busy, usually, as in the summer) and staff going sick - presumably to enjoy the sun anywhere but a crowded park.

    Some rides had to close early (staff moved from one to another) and there were large queues elsewhere. But the park didn't close so many people may not have noticed.

    With safety critical staff on a railway, you will notice things.
     
  16. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    This year seems to have been odd with the school holidays too, as many areas seem to have gone for two weeks before Easter itself, rather than the two weeks either side which AFAIK is more typical. Glad things are back to normal now!
     
  17. geoffk

    geoffk Established Member

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    In that case, Northern should introduce a reduced timetable which matches what they can reasonably expect to operate. Note that this only applies to the north-west area. Sunday services in Yorkshire operate as advertised and indeed there have been improvements to Sunday frequencies on Aire Valley and Wharfedale lines and, from next month, Leeds - Sheffield. This is because terms and conditions are different. Was bringing Sundays into the working week a franchise requirement and, if so, what action is DfT going to take? This has been going on for too long.
     
  18. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Indeed not. But if I did, I could hardly be upset when I was, as told throughout, asked to work a load of Sundays.
     
  19. Starmill

    Starmill Events Co-ordinator

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    This is what I posted upthread. It's probably untrue for a whole host of reasons that aren't much worth going into here, but if it were true, Sunday services should clearly be cut.

    Instead, Northern have a commitment to increase them significantly. This has been known about specifically since February 2015. Here we are more than four years on from that. What has been done?
     
  20. bobbyrail

    bobbyrail Member

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    Many other industries do employ people on a Sunday or weekend only basis HGV driving is probably one of the biggest sectors that do it. I used to work with loads of people who were doing warehouse work during the week then driving at weekend, they got paid more than those doing the job during the week so that's where it may come unstuck in the rail industry. Also think of all the permanent way staff out on the network, many who i knew of worked 2 or 3 nights a week and they were glad that they didn't get asked to do more. Suits a lot of people that way of working but like you say it's probably not viable and i suspect that's financially
     
  21. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    The problem with employing people on a part-time basis is that it's fundamentally inefficient. All the fixed costs of recruitment remain the same, but you're only getting two days of productive work out of the person instead of five (or equivalent hours). Again, we're back where we started - cost. Furthermore, you've now tied up all your (in some cases extremely scarce) training resources for someone who can't deliver a full week's worth of work. It's do-able, but is it a good use of resources?
     
  22. SteveM70

    SteveM70 Member

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    I work in the logistics industry for one of the big supermarkets, and we had a similar issue with drivers being relied on to work voluntary overtime, and similar(ish) barriers to entering the industry in terms of training and qualifying.

    What we did was face into the problem, negotiate with the drivers and unions and agree a deal that saw their standard terms and conditions changing to 5 over 7, with safeguards around distribution of weekend working across the pool of drivers and a guarantee that a certain proportion of days off would be two in a row to replicate the effect of a weekend.

    It cost us money, but it was what was right for our customers, so in the end what was right for the company as well

    I don’t for a second imagine that Northern would have an easy time of this, but it does seem like nothing has been done and that DfT are looking the other way
     
  23. MichaelAMW

    MichaelAMW Member

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    Except that, as has been pointed out by people on this forum previously, there are TOCs where guards or drivers have more than one contract. I wish I could find it but I'm sure I've read on here of drivers having different pay, holidays and Sunday obligation at the same depot.
     
  24. MichaelAMW

    MichaelAMW Member

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    I guess what we really need is someone working under these conditions to tell us if "toxic" describes it. Presumably, which I would guess to be true if the TOC would like people on a revised contract, it would be a matter of choice for existing employees, with the new ones being employed on the newer terms.
     
  25. bramling

    bramling Established Member

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    This is normally where TOCs have been merged or altered, so you'll have one lot on the terms from their former TOC, and another lot on different terms from that TOC. ISTR GWR, GA and Northern are examples of this, doubtless there's others. It's not a simple matter to "harmonise" things, for various reasons.
     
  26. SteveM70

    SteveM70 Member

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    Of course, the sensible way of doing this would have been for the DfT to engage with the relevant trades unions beforehand and make it a condition of the bid process, with the cost of “buying out” life expired terms and conditions being met centrally.

    That way, the DfT continues it’s fine tradition of interference, but does so in a way that’s helpful to customers, and the cost would be minuscule in the context of the lifetime revenue support payments for the franchise.

    And there’s plenty of precedent for terms and conditions being bought out since privatisation so the principle is established and ultimately the unions and staff would have their price for accepting.
     
  27. Shaw S Hunter

    Shaw S Hunter Established Member

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    But you may be sure that the price you mention, regardless of its value, is more than the DfT is willing to pay. Until the general public makes a much bigger deal out of the problems being caused by unreliable Sunday services nothing is going to change.
     
  28. dk1

    dk1 Established Member

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    Possibly only through franchise changes/merging such as ex-Central/MML crew at EMT. Here in East Anglia us drivers are on the same contracts as we where working for Anglia, Great Eastern & WAGN in 2004. Neither will give up their particular T&Cs & all attempts to harmonise by National Express & latterly Abellio have failed. Perhaps these are the examples you are thinking of.
     
  29. kevconnor

    kevconnor Member

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    This isn't really economically or operationally viable. You are basically asking the union to name it's price and giving no incentive to make this realistic. Costs could easily run into the tens of thousands per employee. Where should that be recovered from and is it really a good use of very limited resources?

    There is then the high likelihood that unions will come back with higher and higher demands each time if they feel there is a good chance they will get what they want. Or alternatively even if they don't get what they want unions may just adopt stalling tactics in order to hold up the franchasing process each time there is a new contract.
     
  30. Richard P

    Richard P Member

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    Significant number of train services replaced by buses between Hunts Cross and Manchester Oxford Road from late morning to late afternoon on Easter Sunday due to shortage of train crew
     

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