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  • Another day of strike action announced by Merseyrail and Northern staff

    Henry James

    WORKERS from Arriva Rail North (Northern) and Merseyrail will go on strike next month as part of an ongoing dispute over driver-only operated trains.

    The Rail Union RMT workers have announced industrial action on Saturday, March 3.

    They have said they are annoyed about “attacks on the role of the safety-critical guard and the extension of Driver Only Operation in the name of increased profits.”

    RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with Northern and Merseyrail over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces. No one should be in any doubt, these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies

    “It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.

    “Theresa May and Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip-off the British passenger with eye-watering far increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains. If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first then it’s good enough for the rest of the UK.

    “RMT remains ready for talks in both of these disputes.”

    Merseyrail has called on the RMT to reconsider its position following the announcement of yet further strike action to hit the people of the Liverpool City Region and “prioritise the future of their members and get back round the table for talks”.

    A spokesperson for Merseyrail added: “This is a senseless dispute because not one single employee will lose their job and is more to do with the RMT being stuck in a time warp of its industrial past.

    “The RMT’s failings to recognise and consider that evolutionary change through modernisation and changes to working practices is vital to meet the needs and expectations of the 21st century customer. It is without doubt that this new fleet of trains will enhance the service provided to our customers. These new trains will be, faster, safer and able to carry more passengers.”

    Andy Heath, Merseyrail managing director, commented: “Yet again the RMT has announced a further strike, remaining entrenched in a position which is to oppose any form of change with no desire to meet with us and reach an agreement.

    “We have continually sought to reach a compromised solution, however, the RMT remain intent on causing disruption to our customers. We will endeavour to provide the best possible rail service that we can to our customers, with the resources we have available, as we have been providing on previous strike days.”

    Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: "We are delivering our modernisation plans for customers with almost £500m of new trains under construction, £7m spent so far on improving our stations, 70 refurbished trains in service, 400 extra people recruited, and much more to come by 2020.

    “We are still prepared to guarantee jobs and hold pay reviews for our 1,300 conductors until the end of our franchise in 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that if RMT ends its strike action. RMT has recently rejected our request to hold a fresh ballot of Northern conductors after nearly a year of strike action.

    “We are concentrating our efforts on running as many services as possible on Saturday, March 3 to keep our customers moving.”

    Meanwhile as part of the multi-billion pound Great North Rail Project Manchester Victoria will be closed to train services on Sundays until Easter and the Easter weekend. The project is modernising the rail structure across the North of England.

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