Letter: Why I'm on strike: a signalman accuses Railtrack of shoddy treatment

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Sir: As a signalman involved in the rail dispute, I am writing to help you understand our strike.

A lavatory attendant at Waterloo Station is paid pounds 181.42, including London and South-east allowance, for a 39-hour week. I am paid pounds 156.45 for a 39-hour week; but under Railtrack's new proposals I am expected to work Sundays, rest days, 12-hour shifts and bank and public holidays, as part of a normal working week, for no further increments or time off in lieu. I am currently obliged frequently to work a seven-day week, putting my job before my famiy, to ensure Railtrack profits.

It is the differentials between lower grade staff and signalling personnel, responsible for passenger safety, that is the issue in this dispute. Signalling-staff wages have gradually fallen while those of the lower grades have increased. Railtrack and, previously, BR were urged as long ago as 1989 to review signalling-staff wages, but chose instead to ignore us. If they had not done so, and if the Government had not intervened when an acceptable offer was put on the table, this dispute could have been avoided.

I, and many of my colleagues, regret the inconvenience our action has caused to the public; and I hope they understand that it is only because of shoddy treatment by BR and Railtrack that this dispute has come about.

Yours,

JAMES MARSH

Signalman, Railtrack (Scotland)

Dunning, Perthshire

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