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RMT announces new strike to cause Grand National travel mayhem

The RMT has announced yet another strike on Merseyrail and Northern services to coincide with the Grand National on Saturday 8 April after negotiations broke down yesterday.

The new industrial action sees the dispute between the union and rail operators over driver-only-operated trains (DOO) continue further, as punters looking for a day out at the horses may experience significant disruption getting to Aintree, in Merseyside.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the union, blamed the continuing refusal of the companies “to give a simple, lasting guarantee that protects the safety-critical role of the guard on their trains” for the reason for the latest strikes.

Last time the union went on strike, Northern were only able to run 40% of their normal services due to guards and drivers striking.

Cash said: “The date we have announced, the 8 April, gives Arriva Rail North ample time to get round the table with us and negotiate a settlement that puts passenger safety right at its core.

“This dispute, and the industrial action we have announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously, stuck to their earlier commitments and had put passenger safety before profit.”

Once again, the company’s “intransigence” has forced RMT’s hand, Cash claimed. “The disruption to services will be entirely down to Arriva Rail North reneging on their earlier commitments.”

The RMT boss had equally strong words to say about Merseyrail, as he said that it was “disgraceful” that they had wrecked a “golden opportunity” to have serious talks.

“RMT reps set out key points for discussion that could have moved the dispute forwards, Merseyrail kicked that conciliatory approach back in our faces and made it crystal clear that all that they are interested in is the union signing a surrender document which gives them a free hand to rip apart the safety culture on the railway,” he argued.

Cash explained that the RMT knew full well that the strike would cause problems for those visiting Aintree for the Grand National, as he asked the public to understand that they have “no option” to make employers understand than take drastic action.

“There is ample time between now and April 8th for genuine talks to take place and for a safe and sustainable deal that protects the future safety across Merseyrail services to be put in place,” he said. “The company should take up that offer of further talks as a matter of urgency.”

And for the second time in as many months, the “pig-headed attitude” of operators was referred to by Cash as he called on Merseyrail and Northern to reconsider the union’s demands.

Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Arriva Rail North, said that Northern were surprised that RMT had announced strike action for Saturday 8 April as the operator had been in contact with the union for further negotiations for the past 24 hours. 

“We have been clear that we want RMT, along with our people, our customers and stakeholders, to play a role in bringing our modernisation plans to life" he said. "We want to work with everyone on how we modernise the way we provide customer service and continue to run a safe and reliable railway.”

RTM contacted Merseyrail for comment, but at the time of publication had not received a response. 

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Neil Palmer   23/03/2017 at 04:25

If there ever was a textbook definition of "pig-headed" it's Mick Cash. I thought blackmail was illegal, yet Mick seems to be guilty of that particular crime, ruining the economy and the livelihoods of innocent people all over his struggle to maintain the power to disrupt rail services whenever he feels like it. Striking for our safety my ....

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