Union call off Merseyrail strikes after 'major breakthrough'

Union call off Merseyrail strikes after 'major breakthrough'

by Henry James (October 2019)

RAIL union RMT has said they have secured a “major breakthrough” in their long-running dispute with Merseyrail over driver-only operated (DOO) trains and have suspended planned action for November and December.

Staff had planned to strike on every Saturday in November and December from November 2.

But the action has been called off and RMT added that Merseyrail had, “tabled an offer that guarantees both a guard on the train and the safety-critical role of that guard in the despatch process and ensures the safest possible method by having guards close the train doors at the platform/train interface.”

Merseyrail commented that they are now working with the union towards a final deal.

The RMT said the “breakthrough offer comes after nearly three years of political, industrial and public campaigning by the union and after intense negotiations” between them and Merseyrail.

The Merseyrail proposals have been examined in detail at a meeting of RMT reps and the union’s National Executive and the union said they, “represent significant movement on the crucial despatch issue that has enabled the union to suspend all action in the current dispute.” The union added that there is, “further work to do now around the fine detail but the union is committed in principle to the despatch procedure and to taking that process forwards with a view to getting a final deal over the line.”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Today’s breakthrough in the long-running Merseyrail guards’ dispute has been achieved after nearly three years of hard political, industrial and public campaigning and I want to pay tribute to RMT members who have been prepared to put themselves on the line at significant personal cost to defend safety and accessibility on the railway.

“The progress that has been achieved has been extraordinary.

“We have pushed back from the threat of wholesale Driver Only Operation across Merseyrail to not only a guarantee of a guard on every train but a guarantee that that guard will retain a safety-critical role in the despatch process including the most operationally safe method of guards closing the doors at the platform/train interface.

“That is a significant development that will resonate throughout the rail industry.

“I want to thank our negotiating team, led by our regional organiser John Tilley, who have worked tirelessly to pin down the crucial movement that has resulted in this offer which gives us enough in principle to suspend all planned action in the dispute.

“There is some further work to do now around the fine detail but the union remains committed, as we have been right from the start, to getting a final deal over the line that protects both the guard and their safety-critical role on Merseyrail trains.”

Andy Heath, Merseyrail managing director, responded: “At no time in our many days of negotiations with the RMT did we ever lose sight of the fact that the new Merseyrail trains will be one of the best metro railway trains in the national rail network.

“These new trains deliver everything that our customers have asked for through the design of a modern interior, safety features that have responded to feedback from a variety of user panels and industry bodies across the UK and of course the sliding step and platform level boarding maximising the accessibility for all our customers.

“I am pleased that after consideration the RMT’s National Executive Committee have endorsed the latest proposal in principal and at the same time have given our customers, shoppers and traders the benefit of the lead up to Christmas being strike free by suspending the planned nine days of strikes.

“We will now progress with the next phase of discussions to finalise an agreement so that the RMT can consult with its guard members before proceeding towards implementation.”

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