Posted 4th January 2019 | 6 Comments

RMT set to stage 43rd Northern strike

THE RMT is set to stage its 43rd strike on Northern tomorrow (Saturday) as the train staffing dispute continues.

The walkout will come at the end of a turbulent week in which transport secretary Chris Grayling clashed with the rail unions by blaming them for contributing to the New Year fares increases, which were 3.2 per cent for regulated fares and 3.1 per cent when all fares were taken into account.

Mr Grayling had previously said that the formula for future rail fare increases could be based on the Consumer Prices Index, which is lower than the currently used Retail Prices Index, if unions were willing to have their future wage increases also based on the CPI. However, RMT general secretary Mick Cash rejected the proposal, saying that ‘if he seriously thinks that our members are going to take the hit to their pay for his incompetence and the greed of the train companies he has got another coming’.

This argument came to the fore two days ago when Mr Grayling accused the rail unions of boosting the New Year increases, telling the BBC that ‘the reality is the fare increases are higher than they should be because the unions demand – with threats of national rail strikes if they don't get them – higher pay rises than anybody else’.

The RMT described this claim as ‘scandalous’.

The union has also protested about compensation payments made to Arriva Rail North by the Department for Transport because of the revenue lost through industrial disputes. Such compensation is a usual feature of franchise contracts.

The union claimed that ARN had received an additional £31 million since the franchise began in April 2016, and that the company’s profits over the same period had been £33.7 million.

Mick Cash said: ‘RMT Northern members will be striking again tomorrow in the long-running fight to put public safety before private profit as the company jack up their fares and refuse to lift the axe from above the heads of their safety critical guards.

‘RMT continues to make every effort to get serious and meaningful talks going with Northern but the company would prefer to milk the fare increase for every penny they can while ignoring the safety concerns of their staff and the public alike.’

Northern has called on the RMT to ‘suspend its damaging strike action’ and accept an independent ACAS inquiry.

The operator’s managing director David Brown said: ‘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. Therefore, there is no reason for the RMT to continue its disruptive and economically damaging strikes.’

Northern also warned that, as on previous strike days, there would be very few trains on its network after about 17.00 tomorrow.

Reader Comments:

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

  • Paul H., Stockport

    Quote - 'So, if it has been agreed a second member of staff, with safety critical training, WILL be rostered on EVERY service, why is the RMT still striking? One word - Power.'
    Three words - Not fully informed. There will be circumstances - yet to be agreed/decided (e.g. late-running inbound service), when a second person will not be on the services. Also 'rostering' a person for every service is not the same as that person being available for that service and the proposed second member of staff will NOT be safety critical.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    "After all, the guards pay for themselves in ticket sales twice over, where's the logic?"

    Northern and the DfT HAVE conceded to keep a second person on board to do exactly this. And with this person freed up from the duties of interrupting ticket sales to open & close doors they will sell MORE tickets, while station dwell time and delays will be decreased and network capacity increased because door opening will not be delayed upon arrival at the platform waiting for this second staff member to finish a ticket sale or push their way through a crowded carriage to the door controls.

    So, if it has been agreed a second member of staff, with safety critical training, WILL be rostered on EVERY service, why is the RMT still striking? One word - Power.

    The RMT want the power to disrupt services for every petty little disagreement that comes up. Northern want the right, if for some unforeseen circumstance this second member of staff doesn't show up on time, to run the service anyway. Who in this picture cares about the passengers?

  • Steve Alston, Crewe

    100% the fault of Grayling and the DfT. One nasty little man's crusade to attack a union, set out on this from his first day in the job. Exposed as interfering with the London Southeastern Metro project quoted as saying he "did not want those services in the hands of a labour mayor". Members of all parties including the Conservatives which I am in, asked for him to be sacked.

    A true disgrace who has pushed commuters and passengers through hell, for near zero gain, other than his vendetta to beat the unions, a-la-maggie. After all, the guards pay for themselves in ticket sales twice over, where's the logic?

    Bizarrely he is backed by a percentage of the media, despite the obvious mess. Do remember he said "Hotel owners should have the right to throw gay couples out of their premises" and "I didn't see the cyclist" (who he knocked down) and "prisoners should not have access to books".

    I look forward to order two day returns to Calais on Grayling's best mate's Brexitboat with a side order of cheesy garlic bread.

  • Jeremy Milton, Manchester

    I salute the managements of Northern and SWR for standing firm in their determination that their new fleets will mean new and better and modern working practices.

    The RMT have lost on Southern. Conceded ground on Greater Anglia. And at some point they will allow drivers to operate doors on Northern and SWR as well so that the second member of staff can check tickets, address antisocial behaviour, and maybe sell the odd KitKat.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    Is it RMT counting how many strikes that Northern will continue to have strikes. I can guarantee that both RMT and Northern could reach as close to 50 strikes. No wonder Northern are still the worst rail operator in England so far since the strikes first happened few years ago. And with new trains which are scheduled to enter passenger service on Northern.

  • Jim Livesey, Mirfield

    Cynical abuse of Northern passengers by Grayling and his advisors at the DfT, the RMT and Northern itself for running fewer replacement services - road and rail.