Posted 20th December 2018 | 4 Comments

New Northern strikes called as RMT rejects inquiry

THE RMT has announced four more strikes on Northern in January.

The news of more industrial action in the long-running dispute over on-train staffing has come hard on the heels of a letter from Northern to ACAS, which calls for the conciliation service to use its powers to set up an independent inquiry.

When the RMT strikes on Saturday (22 December) it will be the 41st walkout since March 2017. Another strike on 29 December and four more in the New Year will have taken the total to 46 by the end of January.

Northern said the inquiry would look at the duties of a second member of staff on board its trains. There would also be an examination of the  feasibility of Driver Controlled Operation, in which the driver has full control of the train, including the doors.

The inquiry would have an independent chair and panel members, and contributions would be invited from any interested parties.

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: ‘The RMT dispute means customers, businesses and the wider economy in the North have suffered the cost of 40 days of RMT strikes, including every Saturday in September, October, November and now December. Customers, employers and colleagues are looking for both parties to resolve the dispute.

‘More than 50 per cent of all rail journeys are made on driver-controlled trains and recently the Department for Transport and Transport for the North publicly confirmed that a second person – in addition to the driver – would be retained on Northern services.

‘This second person will provide customer service, including meeting customer needs on accessibility, safety, security, ticketing and information. Despite this, the RMT continues with its strike action.

‘We call on RMT to join us in committing to the inquiry and suspending its industrial action whilst the inquiry takes place. This would demonstrate commitment from both sides to try and resolve the issues, reassuring customers and stakeholders that every endeavour is being made by both sides.’

Existing conductors have been promised that they will continue to work on board trains until 2025 at least, and that their pay will be protected. The present starting salary for conductors is £28,250 a year.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash has described the idea of an inquiry as a ‘PR stunt’.

He continued: ‘We have not seen any proposals from Northern Rail whatsoever that would make serious progress in terms of resolving the dispute. The company are seeking to kick the issue of rail safety into the long grass indefinitely rather than facing up to the fundamental issue of the guard guarantee on their trains and there is no way that RMT will allow them to get away with this chicanery.

‘The answer to resolving this dispute is not an inquiry but meaningful negotiations. However, not only is the government working behind the scenes to block such negotiations but it is wilfully using taxpayers’ money to bail out Northern Rail for revenues lost as a result of strike action, meaning the company have no financial incentive whatsoever to settle.’

The new strikes are set to take place on 5, 12, 19 and 26 January.

Reader Comments:

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

  • BillD, Millom

    The railway’s safety regulator has decreed that OMO is safe with certain safeguards in place. The Northern franchise was let on the basis of an increase in DOO. Therefore, if the RMT have any beef with anyone, its either the robs or the DfT not Northern and certainly not Northern’s passengers! It’s gone on too long, now. RMT have lost any support which it may have had. As for the ‘guards’, they need to come out of the rear cab and ensure that customer service is delivered and standards maintained e.g. passenger behaviour. I’m all for the principle of a second member of staff on trains but if one is not available, as has happened to me before, I would rather it run short manned than cancelled and a replacement bus substituted.

  • Robin Colemam, Auckland, New Zealand

    Don't these RMT clowns realise the're wrecking the railway and cutting their own throats in the long run.

  • Michael Breslin, Liverpool

    I have no objection to a second, safety-compliant, person on board trains - PROVIDING he/she walks up and down the train checking tickets and is available to answer passengers' queries. I regulary travel on Northern services and, apart from opening and closing the doors, many guards stay in tbe rear cab and never communicate with passengers.If the RMT want guards to
    continue operating the doors and are against any extra duties (i.e. checking/selling tickets on all trains) they are going to lose any passenger support they might have.

  • Andrew Gwilt , Basildon Essex

    I can guarantee you that RMT who are introducing more strikes are making Northern the worst train operator of all time. And next year won’t get any better for Northern introducing more strikes that is set to cause more problems and misery to passengers using Northern and their trains being cancelled and delayed because of the strikes that is still going ahead. South Western Railway and London Underground are also planning ahead to introduce more strikes from the RMT throughout Christmas and the New Year. But with more strikes happening on the railways. Passengers can’t do anything about it and just have to put up with the strikes and just find alternative ways to commute including commuting into work, leisure and other purposes when traveling by train. Whilst the strikes are on.