Thameslink Railway has come under fire for cancelling a catering contract as it takes on the Southern franchise, resulting in up to 70 job losses.
The contract, with Rail Gourmet, is being axed on Saturday ahead of the transfer of Southern's rail franchise over to Thameslink on Monday morning (27 July). Thameslink is thought to be dropping the entire trolley service from the combined operation, which also includes Great Northern.
Sources told City A.M. union bosses were still trying to establish what their next steps would be, as the time frame allows for no strike action to take place before the staff are let go. It is thought legal action could arise from this.
Transport union RMT claims staff were only made aware of this yesterday, giving them just four days' notice.
It slammed the two train operators, and catering company Rail Gourmet, for “treating low paid staff like dirt”, saying staff were being “dumped on the stones in the most disgraceful and brutal fashion”.
The union described Rail Gourmet's consultation as “a ludicrous twist” noting that it will begin two days after staff have been sacked.
“It has already been made clear to the union that there are no other jobs for these workers except maybe a handful at the London depot on inferior terms and conditions,” the union said.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This disgraceful move is an attack on both our low paid members and the services that they provide to the travelling public and we are calling for it to be halted immediately before the staff are thrown out of their jobs.
“This brutal assault is being driven through with just a few days notice and makes a mockery of consultation processes and the very basic duty of care to employees. The fact that is all bound up in the franchising process speaks volumes about how rail privatisation impacts on staff and passengers alike in the drive for profits.
“RMT is taking further advice and will do everything in our power to protect our members.”
A spokesman for Govia Thameslink Railway said in a statement: "The number of customers who want to use the on-board trolley service tells us that this is no longer our customers’ preferred service and so our current on-board trolley service will end on the 26 July when Southern Railway joins the Govia Thameslink Railway franchise.
"Bringing Southern, Gatwick Express, Thameslink and Great Northern into one franchise allows us to invest heavily in a better service for passengers.
"We’ve already brought in new trains on the Brighton Mainline and, as one company we’ll be able to completely recast this route’s timetable in December to give passengers a more reliable service."
Retail Gourmet could not be reached.