Posted 5th December 2018 | 10 Comments

Northern peace talks collapse

Mick Cash: ‘RMT is sick of being treated with contempt’

Updated 11.15

NEW talks arranged in yet another attempt to end the train-staffing dispute on Northern have broken up in disarray. Hopes rose last week that a settlement could be in sight when the RMT offered to cancel its strike on 1 December if Northern agreed to three key conditions.

Northern had said the offer had come too late for trains to run normally on the 1st, but that it would be to able to restore the timetable on 8 December.

However, the prospects of the strikes ending soon appear slim once again, after the RMT said it had been left ‘angry, frustrated and determined to fight on in the interests of passenger safety’ when talks at ACAS failed to make any progress.

Northern said it had attended the talks with an ‘open mind’, but the union accused the company of having ‘no will’ to deal with the three points which have been raised about a second crew member. The RMT is calling for ‘an absolute guarantee of that member of staff being on board, that they will be safety critical, with the full suite of competencies, including de‎spatch’.

Both the Department for Transport and Transport for the North said last week that they support the presence of a second crew member on Northern in principle, and that seemed to give the peace talks a fresh chance.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT’s negotiating team arrived at the talks only to find that they were shunted into a side room while the company played for time.They even issued a bulletin to staff making it clear that the ACAS talks were nothing but a stunt on their part to buy a bit of time and try and hoodwink the union into suspending action.

‘Even after we eventually got in the room it was clear that they were either unwilling or unable to address the union’s position on the three key points we have set out and the fundamental issues at ‎the heart of the dispute. 

‘Frankly, it defies belief that despite the spin from the Government last week the very basic issue of a funding package to underpin a second person on Northern trains has been booted into the long grass. That is a disgrace.

‘RMT is sick of being treated with contempt and taken for a ride by those at the controls of the basket-case Northern Rail franchise and their paymasters in Government. Their cynical actions have collapsed the talks process and the programme of strike action remains on and the blame for that lies fair and square with the company.’

Northern’s deputy managing director Richard Allan said: ‘Northern went in to the meeting with an open mind and made it clear we wish to continue discussions and all options will be considered that involve the deployment of two members of staff on Northern services.

‘Any customer who needs help with access, personal security, information, ticketing and so on will have a member of staff, in addition to the driver, on-board trains to help them.

‘On behalf of customers and stakeholders, and in the spirit of working together, Northern would welcome RMT postponing its planned industrial action. We look forward to further talks at ACAS.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Jeremy Milton, Manchester

    Neil - your point is spot on the nail.

    Get the RMT to answer this. If the choice is between cancelling the last train home because of no 'guard,' or running under DOO to get people home safely....


  • Derek Van Ryne, Southport

    This dispute is rather stupid. There are 2 questions that need to be asked:-
    1) Does a train need a second person on board ?? Answer "YES"
    2) Does the 2nd person need to be a safety critical worker ?? Answer "NO"
    DOO trains started operating on the BedPan line in 1982, 36 years ago, and they have been working perfectly well and safely ever since. The RMT (then the NUR) agreed to these services being DOO. Thus there is an agreed National Agreement in place between the Railway Industry and the RMT. Are the RMT now saying that these trains are unsafe ?? If so they should tell us why and more importantly tell us what has changed !! As far as I can see there is no reason why trains on Northern Rail should not operate under DOO conditions. Just in case anyone thinks I'm anti-union. I am not I have been a member of a trade union since I started work on BR in 1967 and still am now that I have retired !!

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    TfN/DfT/Northern have now agreed to roster a second member of staff on every service (as has SWR). The ONLY thing they ask for in return is IF that second member of staff doesn't turn up (could be a ate inbound service/road congestion/illness/accident/emergency) that instead of cancelling the service it would then run DOO. The RMT would rather see hundreds of passengers turfed out of a packed service at Piccadilly in the evening peak, or vulnerable passengers left to find their own way home late at night if this should happen on the last service of the day on a particular route, so they can maintain absolute power to disrupt services whenever they wish.

  • Jeremy Milton, Manchester

    The only headbangers are the RMT, fighting for 1930s working practices on 21st century trains. They WILL lose, the only question is when.

    Passengers want visible staff selling tickets, not locked out of sight fiddling with door buttons.

    I salute the determination of the managements of Northern and SWR. West Midlands next!

  • Paul H., Stockport

    Mr Palmer's comments are typical of someone who thinks the dispute is about holding the public to ransom - for what - pay??? It's not about pay - RMT guards are losing plenty of it. It's actually about passenger safety - those people he thinks the RMT doesn't care 'one iota' about. All the RMT are asking is that the second person on the train is 'safety critical' i.e. they know how to deal with emergencies - either assisting the driver, or acting alone if the driver has become incapacitated and the TOCS wont do it - because the training costs money and eats into their profits. So maybe he should re-appraise who doesn't care about the passengers 'one iota'.

  • Danny Gooch, Swindon

    I'd suggest the heads that should be banged hard are those of Messers Wilkinson & Grayling who are pushing the DOO agenda , needlessly.

    It has become clear that Union interests aside , there are issues surrounding DOO in terms of passenger access , security and more importantly safety, yet still the agenda is being forced upon TOCs at franchise change.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    It's time for the TOC's involved in these similar disputes with the RMT to start taking out full page newspaper ads and maybe even television advertisements pointing out the facts of the offer given to the RMT and that the RMT doesn't care for the passengers one iota. All they care about is the power to continue to hold the long suffering travelling public for ransom whenever they feel like it.

    Here's a suggestion for the Luddites at the RMT. If you want to continue living in the Victorian era as far as the way the railways are operated then fine, simply agree to also live in the Victorian era as far as your member's wages are concerned.

  • Roger Capel, Sheffield

    By the time this is settled Northern's Saturday passengers will be well accustomed to the alternative arrangements they've made over the months & a lot won't be back.

    Only good thing is the spectacular boost for Sheffield - Rotherham - Parkgate Tramtrain, with packed cars every Saturday afternoon!!

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    Then Northern are a disgrace. Worst train operator of 2018. Next year could get even worse for passengers using Northern with lots of strikes happening.

  • Andrew B, Stockport

    The RMT are sick of being taken for a ride? Well us passengers are sick OF NOT BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE.

    Time to get every one in the room and start BANGING HEADS TOGETHER. HARD. This is now beyond ridiculous.