Rail jobs, staff issues and training

06.02.19

Strikes suspended as Northern and RMT reach an agreement in bitter guards dispute

Northern Rail and the RMT have reached a “major breakthrough” in their long-running dispute over guards on trains, bringing an end to nearly two years of industrial action and 47 separate days of strikes.

The union confirmed it has suspended strike action as Northern has reportedly offered a guarantee that there will be a conductor on all trains for the duration of its current franchise.

The guarantee is supported by the DfT, and will include conductors on its new fleet.

Northern’s managing director, David Brown, said he “warmly welcomed” the union’s decision to call off future strike action and “recommence talks about what the future of the conductor looks like.”

“We have been very clear in these discussions that there will be a conductor on all our trains now and into the future. We are looking forward to further positive talks with RMT about operational models moving ahead so that we can resolve their dispute and bring it to an end.

“The suspension of the RMT strikes is good news for customers and businesses across the north.”

Mike Cash, the RMT’s general secretary, said he wanted to pay tribute to all its members on Northern Rail for their resilience, as well as the travelling public.

He commented: “Today’s offer of a guarantee of a conductor on all services throughout the duration of the franchise, including the new fleet, is the substantial progress we have been pushing for and has allowed RMT’s executive to take the decision to suspend the current action and allow for further talks to now take place with all stakeholders around the operational details.”

Further talks, involving stakeholders, will now seek further agreement on operational models moving forward.

The dispute has been long-running and turbulent, with union heads clashing with safety organisation the RSSB on the importance of a second guard to passenger safety.

Back in November, the DfT and TfN committed to keeping a second person on-board Northern trains, with TfN urging both Northern and the RMT to get back around the negotiating table in order to restore passenger’s confidence in the railway.

Northern did warn that changing a strike timetable back to a normal one was a “very complex task,” but a full Saturday timetable would be running from 16 February.

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