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Liverpool businesses call for end to RMT Merseyrail row ‘as a matter of urgency’

Businesses in Liverpool have called on the RMT and Merseyrail to return to negotiations and bring their long-running dispute to an end as “a matter of urgency”.

The union has been locked in a dispute with the operator since the start of the year, and last went on strike in April to coincide with Grand National Day in Aintree – causing chaos for the many punters hoping to enjoy a day out at the races.

And this week, RMT announced a new tranche of industrial action as it stated that its members would walk out for 24 hours on 30 May on Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and Southern services.

But today, members of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce (LCC) have penned a joint letter urging the two parties to return to talks and try to bring the dispute, which is reportedly having a negative impact on the Liverpool economy, to an end.

“This dispute has now dragged on for too long and today I join with other members of our local business community to urge both sides to settle this quickly,” the letter stated. “Both sides need to get back around the table and settle this as a matter of urgency.”

Central to the argument between the RMT and Merseyrail is changes to trains that will see driver-only operated (DOO) trains come into service by 2020. This would mean that the guard would be taken off the train and tasks like opening and closing carriage doors would be dealt with by the driver.

The LCC agreed to a certain extent with the union’s view that this would compromise passenger safety, saying: “The concerns of the RMT over passenger safety have validity and there are certainly conversations that need to take place so that issue is addressed.”

But the group of businesses also stated that the union should listen to compromises Merseyrail has put on the table, such as retaining all staff on the same terms and conditions but in different roles.

“Change is inevitable if progress is to be made. A renewal of the ageing Merseyrail fleet is long overdue,” LCC’s letter continued, adding that the new trains would vastly improve reliability on the network and allow an additional 1,000 jobs to be created from better connections.

LCC also argued that the rhetoric the RMT, in particular its outspoken general secretary Mick Cash, had used in the past was counterproductive and should be softened to drive negotiations in the right direction.

“This isn’t 1978,” the business leaders wrote. “Liverpool isn’t a declining and crumbling city anymore. It is a modern vibrant place that is now recognised as a powerhouse of the UK’s visitor economy.”

They also warned of the effect that constant disruption would have on Liverpool’s growing £4bn tourism industry, claiming that visitors coming to the city in the midst of industrial action may never return if they have a negative travel experience.

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Mikeb   20/05/2017 at 20:28

Surely, as owners of the new Swiss-built trains and the authority specifying how services must be run, Merseytravel should also be party to any negotiations with RMT over DOO. However, they seem to be implying that it is nothing to do with them and are leaving it in the lap of Merseyrail to sort out. Therefore, they are definitely acting in a similar manner to the Southern dispute, where the DfT have specified DCO trains but are letting Govia take all the flak from the Union. Liverpool businesses should therefore start talking to Merseytravel, as the new trains are "their babies".

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