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Northern calls for formal ACAS inquiry over bitter RMT dispute

Northern Rail has formally written to ACAS seeking an independent inquiry into its ongoing dispute with the RMT, with the union calling the move a “nothing more than a publicity stunt.”

The train operator says it wants an inquiry into the “issues at the heart of the RMT’s ongoing dispute,” looking at the future role of the second person on Northern services in addition to the driver.

Northern argued it wants to get the union involved in discussions and resolve the dispute, which is now approaching its second anniversary. But RMT has branded the call for an inquiry a PR stunt as it has not yet seen any serious proposals from the operator.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said Northern was “seeking to kick the issue of rail safety into the long grass instead of facing up to the fundamental issue” of the second-guard guarantee on train services. 

But Northern deputy managing director Richard Allan said the RMT dispute had seen customers, businesses and the wider economy in the north suffer the cost of 40 days of strikes and that customers, employers and colleagues are looking for both parties to resolve the dispute.

In the wake of the DfT and Transport for the North publicly confirming that a second person would be retained on Northern services, Allan expressed his frustration over the fact that strike action has continued.

He stated: “We call on RMT to join us in committing to the inquiry and suspending its industrial action whilst the inquiry takes place. This would demonstrate commitment from both sides to try and resolve the issues, reassuring customers and stakeholders that every endeavour is being made by both sides.”

The independent inquiry would also explore the feasibility of driver-controlled operation where the driver has full operational control of the train including the train doors, as well as the future role of the second person on trains across the Northern network.

Cash responded: “The answer to resolving this dispute is not an inquiry but meaningful negotiations. However, not only is the government working behind the scenes to block such negotiations but it is wilfully using taxpayer’s money to bail out Northern Rail for revenues lost as a result of strike action meaning the company have no financial incentive whatsoever to settle in a serious fashion.”

“We don’t need an inquiry, we need genuine and meaningful ACAS talks focussed on retaining a guard on Northern trains with the full suite of safety and operational competencies including at the crucial platform/train interface.”

Image credit - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images


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