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21.03.17

RMT and Merseyrail DOO dispute drags on as talks break down

Talks between RMT and Merseyrail have broken down once again amidst claims from the union that the operator was intent on “collapsing” negotiations through their refusal to have a “serious or meaningful” negotiation.

The most recent discussions were held to try and find a solution to the dispute over driver-only-operated (DOO) trains that RMT has been locked in with Merseyrail, Northern and Southern, but the latest development shows the dispute still may not come to an end any time in the near future.

Accusations were launched from the RMT that Merseyrail had neither “safety validation for their proposed method of operation”, and that “they will not be contributing a penny-piece from within their own fat profits to maintaining public safety”.

The crux of RMT’s argument revolves around the fact that taking the guard off the train and leaving drivers to look after responsibilities for opening and closing carriage doors will compromise safety.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The blame for collapsing today’s crucial talk lies firmly and squarely with Merseyrail who appear to have no interest whatsoever in discussing the core issues at the heart of this dispute.

“Merseyrail’s intransigence and determination to bring in DOO trains at all costs, sees the dispute continue and RMT’s executive will now consider a report from our regional officer and the next steps in our industrial, political and public campaign.”

Though RMT have employed strong rhetoric against Merseyrail, the operator has told a different story about the version of events around the negotiations, who is “bitterly disappointed” at the results of the talks.

“I don’t know why the RMT agreed to our invitation to come in and talk today, unless it was to maintain appearances,” said managing director Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde.

Chaudry-van der Velde also used the same wording as Cash in describing RMT as “intransigent”, at the meeting, as he said that union leaders “wouldn’t discuss any of the items we put forward, including the guarantee of continued employment for the existing guards on the same salaries as now, salaries which start at £28,000”.

Just before RMT’s talks with Merseyrail broke down, the union had also received an offer from Southern to resume negotiations, on the condition that the union cancelled plans to strike on 4 April.

The most recent strike occurred last week (Monday 13 March) when RMT went through with industrial action on Mereseyrail, Northern and Southern.

RMT also confirmed yesterday that it had written to Arriva Rail North, the company responsible for Northern, demanding an urgent date to be set to resolve the DOO dispute.

Cash said: “Arriva Rail North have been telling the world through the media that they are up for a meeting with RMT over the current dispute and today we have tried to put the building blocks in place to make those talks happen.

“The ball is now in the company’s court but no one should underestimate RMT’s commitment to negotiating a safe and sustainable future for Northern Rail services that has passenger safety right at the core.”

Top Image: Nick Ansell PA Wire

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