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17.05.17

RMT confirms triple strike action to set up day of misery for passengers

Union RMT yesterday confirmed that its members will walk out in dispute with three operators across the country on Tuesday 30 May.

Drivers and guards working on Southern, Arriva Rail North and Merseyrail services will strike for 24 hours the day after bank holiday Monday, meaning that commuters are facing what could be a very difficult day for travel.

The dispute concerns operators rolling out driver-only operated (DOO) services that would see the guard removed from the train and would – in the union’s view – compromise safety.

It also follows the union walking out on Northern services at the end of April, as well as holding strikes on Southern at the start of the same month.

Strikes on Southern have become a common sight for passengers, as last month RMT had a protest to mark the one-year anniversary of the dispute.

“We are hugely disappointed that once again the RMT has called a strike, particularly since we put a further reasonable offer to the union today,” said Andy Bindon, HR director at GTR – Southern’s parent company.

“The RMT’s proposals would mean cancelling trains and reducing service levels to our passengers. Our service levels are stabilising at the highest we’ve seen in years and we cannot agree to anything which will jeopardise running trains and the service to our passengers.”

And the Rail Delivery Group said more strike action was sure to be bad news for passengers and the economy generally.

“More attempted RMT strike chaos would be bad for the economy, businesses and passengers who have already been affected by previous efforts to disrupt the Grand National and the Tour de Yorkshire,” said Paul Plummer, chief executive of the RDG.

“A stronger railway needs everyone working together for the long term as we invest to improve journeys and in a stronger, more secure, skilled workforce with more opportunities for everyone.”

Outspoken secretary of the union Mick Cash commented that: “We have met with Southern but there is a massive gap of over 8,000 trains a year that GTR have confirmed will run without an OBS on board. 

“That represents a serious safety and accessibility risk and short of the guarantee of a second safety qualified member of staff on Southern services we have no option but to confirm a further day of strike action.

“It is now down to Southern/GTR, and the contract holders in the government, to face up to their responsibilities and engage in genuine and serious talks that address our issues.”

Northern and Merseyrail

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said it was is frustrating for the TOC and its customers that the RMT had announced further strike action.

“We urge RMT to get back round the table with us for open-minded, meaningful talks on the role they can play in delivering the modern railway that people of the north want and deserve,” he said.

And Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, said that the organisation wants to “end this dispute as quickly as possible and are always prepared to talk to the trade unions”.

“Over the last two months, we had several meetings with the RMT. In the last one, Merseyrail put forward a number of initiatives, which we were willing to explore through a series of working groups,” explained Chaudhry-van der Velde.

“These included having a second member of staff on trains after 8pm. Unfortunately, the RMT would not talk about these things unless we committed to a second safety critical person on every single train. In other words, it is not us that has turned down the working group, it’s the RMT.”

RMT’s Cash, however, stated that Merseyrail were “disgraceful” in refusing to settle the dispute, stating the operator had adopted a “cynical and hostile stance”.  He also had choice words for Arriva Rail North, who once again said the operator had been “intransigent,” and were totally to blame for the union going ahead with its strike action.

Top Image: Nick Ansell PA Wire

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Comments

Jimbo   17/05/2017 at 18:22

Thanks RMT for demonstrating just before a general election what happens when you give the unions more power. Labour voters take note - you party believes that more of this sort of thing is a good idea.

John Webster   18/05/2017 at 08:03

Similarly, Jimbo, when you have a large majority Tory Government then you will get employers encouraged to ride roughshod over the unions as in the day of Thatcher!

Jimbo   18/05/2017 at 09:01

@John Webster - you are probably correct, but what do you expect ? The unions do really good work to look after their members - just look at the massive real wage increases the rail unions have gained in the privatisation era. On the other hand, when the unions are in it for pure political power and try to be something else like the safety authority and one-true voice of reason for the railways, they are acting for their leaderships benefit, not their members. I was commenting on the crass stupidity of the RMT to strike just before the general election. Labour are already under pressure over giving the unions more power and how it will take us back to the massive strikes of the late 1970's and here we have a prime example. The RMT could easily have waited until after the election and not given that ammunition to their enemies, but no, they just cannot help themselves.

Peter Smith   22/05/2017 at 09:33

It's important to note Northern have a franchise agreement which clearly states there must be a non-driving member of staff on all services. This was agreed between Arriva (the franchise holder), The Department of Transport (Conservative led government body) and Rail North (a collection of local councils which the majority are Labour.) What the RMT are unhappy about is there is no guarantee the second member of staff will have the job title 'guard' which could mean the driver has more responsibility and the second member of staff has less, which could then make the second member of staff more dispensable when the next franchise is let (in 2025.) Obviously the RMT don't want to say the strike is due to a possible risk of job losses 8 or more years down the line, so are misleading the public in to the reasons for the strike in order to try and get members of the public to say they support them. Unfortunately, it's in the RMT's nature to kick up a premature fuss over nothing and in doing so they give trade unions a bad name.

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