Fury over plans to axe 450 workers at Doncaster rail factory

Plans to axe up to 450 jobs at a Doncaster rail maintenance factory have been blasted by a union which claimed they had been ‘smuggled out under the cloak of the Covid-19 crisis’.

Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 1:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th June 2020, 1:32 pm

The RMT said proposals to halve the workforce at Wabtec Rail in Doncaster should be ‘immediately withdrawn’ to allow for discussions with government and politicians.

All 952 staff at the historic Doncaster Works site on Hexthorpe Road – birthplace of famous steam locomotive the Flying Scotsman – were told yesterday there is not enough work for everyone, ahead of a 45-day consultation period.

The union says employees will go between August and March 2021 but there will be more than 100 redundancies in August.

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World Record holder A4 Pacific Mallard at Wabtec Works, Doncaster. Picture: Tony Saxton

Wabtec Rail refurbishes carriages and makes and repairs freight vehicles and shunting locomotives.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union, said it was ‘devastating’ news for the area and was ‘wholly opposed by RMT’.

He added: "The fact that these savage cuts have been smuggled out under the cloak of the COVID-19 crisis is a disgraceful way to act and the plans should be immediately withdrawn to allow for discussions with the Government and local politicians on how we protect these skilled engineering jobs before they are lost for good.

Wabtec in Doncaster.

"RMT's executive will be considering a detailed response to the plans which are another sign of the kind of carnage that is being lined up for the engineering and transport sectors off the back of this pandemic."

Wabtec Corporation is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. It employs 27,000 people in 50 countries and supplies components and services to the global rail industry. It is one of the 500 largest firms in the US and has $8bn turnover.

The Doncaster Works, on a 22-acre site beside the East Coast mainline, has a long history in the construction and maintenance of trains.

A Wabtec spokesman said Doncaster Works had completed most of its refurbishment contracts and the firm planned to ‘realign’ the site.

He added: “The transit rail industry in the United Kingdom is changing, as rail operators are updating their fleets with new rolling stock rather than refurbishing existing trains. In 2019, Wabtec’s Doncaster site completed most of its refurbishment projects and has a strategy in place to fulfill the remaining commitments. Given these realities, Wabtec is proposing to realign the site to focus on projects best suited for its operational strengths and better position the facility for long-term success.

“Decisions like this are never easy, but it will improve the site’s cost competitiveness and offer customers the best value. The proposed realignment includes a gradual workforce reduction of up to 450 employees from the third quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.

“The Company will enter a 45-day consultation period with the trade union and employee representatives to discuss the proposal and improved work practices. “Wabtec is focused on meeting customer commitments and providing impacted employees with resources and benefits needing during this transition.”

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