Hundreds of railway workers’ jobs in Doncaster and Worksop are under threat under plans to shed 234 jobs at a major employer.
DB Schenker, based at Doncaster Lakeside, is looking to axe jobs as a result of a fall in the amount of coal being transported on Britain’s railways.
Unions understand around half those who lose their jobs will be train drivers.
The others will be from support services which have yet to be specified.
Doncaster is one of the company’s main sites, with both the head office, and a freight depot.
Worksop also has a freight depot.
Talks have started with unions over the proposed job losses in a formal consultation.
ASLEF, which represents train drivers, is involved in the talks, and its national organiser Simon Weller is urging the firm to steer clear of compulsory redundancies.
He said he would like to see the company look at the expansion of the Doncaster depot, with staff from Worksop moved to that site, rather than losing their jobs if the Worksop depot was closed.
He said he feared Worksop was in danger because of its strong links with nearby coal powered power stations. He said Doncaster had a broader base of work, and if Worksop was threatened he would like to see work transferred to an expanded Doncaster depot, with the site taking on the workers from North Nottinghamshire.
He said: “We are trying to look the issue as a long term matter. Drivers are expensive assets who have to be trained and are difficult to replace.
“We would be keen to see an expansion of the Doncaster depot and we have proposed that.
“We are looking for significant numbers of voluntary redundancies all across the country.”
Mick Hogg, the RMT union official in talks with the company, said his members would not accept compulsory redundancies.
Steve Coe, organising director of the white collar TSSA union, which has members at the Doncaster head office, said people were concerned about their jobs at the site, but the union would do all it could to keep job losses to a minimum, and encourage the firm to use voluntary redundancies.
A statement from DB Schenker Rail UK said the firm was transforming and shaping its business to ensure continued growth in response to changing markets.
It said: “The face of UK business has altered beyond recognition over recent times and rail freight is no exception. The environment in which our industry has traditionally operated is changing.
“The demand for coal is declining much faster than the industry and our customers could have reasonably predicted. Our customers in the energy sector remain hugely important to us and we are committed to continuing to compete in this volatile market and to maintain and increase our share where possible.
“However, long term growth and target markets are now in sectors such as automotive, intermodal and construction.”
Geoff Spencer, chief executive of the company, said: “Responsible businesses take decisions to positively position themselves for the future. We must transform and reshape our organisation to ensure our long term success by evolving to meet the needs of a rapidly changing market.
“I know this is an unsettling time for colleagues who may be affected and we are committed to keeping them fully informed and supported throughout this process.”
The firms says it is seeking to protect jobs wherever possible. This will include not backfilling a number of existing vacancies, along with looking at the possibilities of offering some colleagues an opportunity to transfer to other DBSR UK locations.
Deputy Mayor of Doncaster, Coun Glyn Jones, said: “I am very disappointed to hear the news of potential redundancies at DB Schenker, and our thoughts are with those people who may be affected. This news emphasises that even rail, which is a growing industry in Doncaster, is not immune to the challenges of changing operating markets.
“We are committed to helping local residents if they are affected, and have support networks in place with our partners at the Redundancy Training Support Team, Job Centre Plus and the Careers Service to help people through this process.
“In spite of this news, we remain confident in Doncaster’s current success and future as a hub of rail and logistics industry, and are determined to continue working hard to bring jobs and growth to local people.”