RMT members vote for Merseyrail, Northern strikes this month

Staff on Merseyrail and Northern have voted to strike on Monday 13 March over plans to introduce driver-only trains.

As well as a 24-hour hour strike on 13 March, RMT members on Merseyrail will not work rest days after 7 March.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This ballot result sends out the clearest possible message to Merseyrail, Merseytravel and politicians across the area that RMT is prepared to stand up and fight for public safety and the guard guarantee. The company now has the best part of two weeks to sit down with us, address the core issues at the heart of this dispute and negotiate a settlement before the action commences. 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. It is the failure of Merseyrail to give guarantees on those basic principles that has led to the current dispute and the campaign of industrial action.”

Merseyrail said a second member of staff on each train is not needed for safe operation of its new fleet due to come into service in 2020 and driver-only trains remain in the plan.

As a contingency plan ahead the strike, Merseyrail managers have been trained to operate the doors to let passengers on and off and it hopes to operate on 13 March, albeit on a reduced timetable.

The company said in a statement: “In the coming days, we will be in a position to publish more information about the services we will be able to run that day. What we can say at this early stage, is that we expect trains to run on some routes only (not every one). These services will be every half hour from around 7am till 7pm, but all with six-carriage trains. Industrial action relates to the new fleet of trains coming into service during 2020, which will no longer require the role of guards due to the way the trains will be operated. However, around sixty on board customer service positions will be created. Ensuring passengers feel safe and secure continues to be the number one priority, and these people will work on board the new trains, to assist and reassure passengers. As things stand, none of today’s guards will be forced to leave Merseyrail’s employment. We have promised that any member of staff who is currently employed as a guard and wants to stay at Merseyrail, will be guaranteed permanent employment in an alternative position, on the same terms and conditions as now, subject to successful negotiation between Merseyrail and the relevant trade unions, once the new trains are introduced. The RMT is not happy with this move towards modernisation, which will see staff used in other areas of the business for the benefit of passengers.”

Guards and driver members on Arriva Rail North, operator of the Northern trains, also voted yesterday for strike action on Monday 13 March.

Cash said: “RMT members have voted by a massive majority for both strike action and action short of a strike on Arriva Rail North in a dispute which is all about putting public safety before private profit.”

Northern responded: “If strike action goes ahead, our customers can be reassured that we have plans in place to keep them moving. During any strike action, we plan to run a revised service and will shortly release further information. A spokesman for Northern said: “As our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages, it is a shame that RMT has announced strike action for Monday 13 March. Our aim is to reach a constructive resolution and we urge RMT to continue the talks we have already started.”

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