Posted 17th February 2017 | 6 Comments
DOO discontent spreads across north
Hopes are ‘dashed’ by ASLEF vote on Southern
A NEW strike ballot was launched on Friday in the growing disputes over driver-only operation, this time on Merseyside. Meanwhile, there has been dismayed reaction to the vote by Southern drivers to reject the DOO deal agreed by ASLEF.
Train builder Stadler has confirmed a £700 million build and maintain contract for 52 new trains for Merseyrail, but these trains are being designed for driver door control.
The RMT had already warned that it would not accept DOO on Merseyrail. General secretary Mick Cash said: “The union’s position on driver only operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.
“RMT has asked Merseyrail to give the union assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services. We set out clear deadlines giving the company ample time to give those assurances but the company have flatly refused to consider a guarantee of a second safety critical person on the new trains”.
The ballot is the second over DOO in 24 hours – a similar vote began on Northern yesterday. Again, the RMT had called in vain for assurances that conductors will be retained and have a full safety-critical role, which Northern's owner Arriva said it was 'not in a position' to guarantee.
Meanwhile the implications of yesterday's DOO referendum of ASLEF drivers on Southern have dismayed passengers and industry observers.
Drivers voted by 54.1 per cent to 45.9 per cent on a turnout of 72.7 per cent to reject their union's proposed settlement with Southern, which had been announced on 2 February.
Govia Thameslink Railway chief operating officer Nick Brown said: “Naturally we’re saddened and hugely disappointed, as will be our passengers, with today’s decision by drivers, particularly as the agreement carried the full support and recommendation of the ASLEF leadership. We now need to understand the issues which led to this outcome and we’ll be seeking to meet with the union as soon as possible to see how we can agree a way forward.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: "We understand and support the decision arrived at democratically by our members and will now work to deliver a resolution in line with their expectations."
The RMT is staging a further strike of its on-board members on Southern on 22 February, which had been announced after its own talks with GTR broke down on Tuesday.
After the ASLEF result became known, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "This referendum was entirely a matter for ASLEF and their Southern members. RMT has remained focused on the industrial and public campaign to protect the safety of the travelling public and to put access and safe operations before profits.
"RMT will now look to take that campaign into its next phase working with our sister rail unions, the wider trade union movement and the passengers who use the railway.
“RMT repeats the call to Southern to give the guarantee of a second, safety critical member of staff on their trains and to sit down with the unions in new talks around the issue of safe train dispatch.”
The wider implications of the ASLEF result are not yet clear, but the possibility of fresh strife is dismaying some observers.
Rail Delivery Group chief executive Paul Plummer said: “This is a disappointing outcome that will worry hundreds of thousands of passengers.
“At the heart of this dispute are changes that will provide passengers with the better service they need and want. Where safety, jobs and pay are unaffected, the railway must be able to harness new technology and smarter ways of working to deliver the modern rail service the country needs.”
David Sidebottom of Transport Focus said: "The hope that services would improve on Southern has now been dashed for their passengers.
"They have had enough of the on-going industrial action. They have faced months of lost time, lost money and deep frustration at not being able to rely on the trains.
"It is vital that all parties in this dispute get back around the table to bring the services back to normal as soon as possible."
Labour's shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald added: “Southern services are abysmal even without strike action, but the failure to resolve this industrial dispute is bad news for both staff and passengers.
“The Government and Govia Thameslink Railway have failed to guarantee passenger safety or accessibility for disabled passengers who face a loss of independence with the expansion of driver only operation services.
“For the sake of long suffering passengers, all parties need to get back around the negotiation table.”
Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.