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RMT writes to Liverpool mayor in attempt to end Merseyrail dispute

The RMT union has today penned a letter to the mayor of Liverpool asking to arrange an urgent meeting in a desperate attempt to get him to intervene and resolve its dispute with Merseyrail.

The disagreement has been ongoing since the start of this year when RMT extended its dispute over driver-only operated (DOO) trains from Southern to members of the union working for Merseyrail and Northern.

The strike action that followed has caused considerable issues for passengers on these services, most recently on Monday 13 March when strike action caused havoc across the network and meant that Northern was only able to run 40% of its normal service.

The news also follows an attempted injunction from Merseyrail against RMT’s strike on 13 March being thrown out by the High Court earlier this month.

Last week, the union announced fresh strikes on Northern and Merseyrail services to coincide with Grand National day on 8 April – action that is certain to cause major disruption for punters trying to get to Aintree for the races, many of whom take the train to the racecourse due to the station being situated a stones-throw away from the track.

Last week the mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, formally requested the union to call off this proposed strike. But Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT, has hit back and urgently appealed to the mayor to sit down with the union and work out what he plans to do to end the dispute.

“As you have decided to intervene in this dispute and formally written to me requesting that the union calls off the action planned for the 8th April 2017 I am now calling for an urgent meeting with you to see if you and I can find a way to break the current impasse,” Cash’s letter read.

“I hope you will agree that the maths clearly show that there is an opportunity for both having modern new trains and keeping a guard on the train yet the company have refused point blank to agree to this.”

Cash argued that in light of “eye-watering” profits submitted by Merseyrail in the region of £14m a year, £5m of that sum should be put towards the cost of keeping guards on the train.

“It seems that the company position is that the new trains will be paid for by passengers losing their guards and our members losing their jobs while the company lose nothing, instead carrying on making a huge profit – with much of these profits going to Dutch state-owned Abellio,” argued Cash. 

“Therefore, at our meeting, I would like to know as mayor or Liverpool what exactly you plan to do to assist in resolving this dispute.”

Cash also demanded that Anderson make clear whether he would “side with the private operators SERCO and Dutch state owned Abellio, who own Merseyrail, or with the passengers and the unions who wish to keep the guarantee of a guard on their trains”. 

He added that the RMT was ready to engage in negotiations, and now expected the mayor to use his office to bring all parties back together and broker a new talks process that focuses on the core issues of safety and finance that RMT are concerned with.

RTM contacted the mayor’s office for comment, but at the time of publication had not received a reply.

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Richard J   28/03/2017 at 13:30

Could someone explain to me why GWR have operated DOO trains for years, which I assume is accepted practice by the RMT and they will not accept it elsewhere?

Northern Guard   28/03/2017 at 16:45

I'm a guard with 'Arriva Rail North' and I'm sick to death of this already. We are not Merseyrail. Northernrail guards do revenue, a lot of revenue. Merseyrail guards from what I have seen do little. Yet we are being dragged out in coordinated strikes that seem to be set up around supporting Merseyrail. I'm absolutely horrified at the attack on the 'Grand National' What on earth will that achieve except turn people against the guards. You fools. Now the RMT are backpeddling, trying to find a way out of this call and saving face in the process. On April 8th I will be booking on for my shift.

Lutz   28/03/2017 at 20:00

@Northern Guard Well if you do not like it, kick-out the extremists.

Jerry Alderson   29/03/2017 at 00:26

@NorthernGuard. Good to hear your thoughts. As I understand it Northern and MerseyRail are very different scenarios. I've spoken to Alex Hynes (Northern's former MD) twice in the last year. Northern (Arriva) claim to be improving many aspects of the service with investment in many things and retaining staff seems to be key to this. They need to collect more revenue and will be ensuring the conductors give good service focusing on passengers rather than doors. I stress that this is the claim. You may know differently. The Labour-controlled combined authority on Merseyside have decided to buy outright the new rolling stock. Presumably this is seen to be a cheaper option. They seem to be making the sums add up by removing conductors on trains and having an OBS on some of them. They will not save any staff costs initially since all jobs will be offered a role at the same pay but obviously over the life of those trains the staff costs will fall in real terms (though having fewer staff and lower-paid staff) hence paying for the trains. (Whilst the RMT suggestion of taking profit from MerseyRail to pay these salaries may make sense the reality is that MerseyTravel has a contract with MerseyRail and any 'robbing' of MerseyRail fees would have to wait until the concession ends, or MerseyTravel would have to buy out MerseyRail's contract.) In my view - from the outside - neither staff should fear losing their jobs but their ability to get RPI-plus salary increases may diminish. Of course, passengers would not be unhappy with fares that rise less - but my view is that government will pocket any savings through reduced subsidy. Of course, reduced subsidy could be reinvested in the railway to the benefit of staff.

Mikeyb   29/03/2017 at 17:08

Jerry is correct in what he says. My suggestion is that the RMT should therefore be seeking urgent talks with Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel, who has signed the contract for the purchase of the new trains and, in so doing, has stipulated DOO.

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