Union calls more rail strikes in bitter guards´ disputes

Rail workers at two train companies are to stage a fresh strike in the long-running dispute over the role of guards.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Arriva Rail North (Northern) and Merseyrail will walk out on March 3.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with Northern and Merseyrail over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces.

The RMT has called more rail strikes (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“No-one should be in any doubt – these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies

“It is, frankly, ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.

“Prime Minister Theresa May and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip off the British passenger with eye-watering fare increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.

“If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first, then it’s good enough for the rest of the UK.”

RMT members at South Western Railway will ban rest-day working for four days from Friday in the same dispute, which also affects Southern and Greater Anglia.

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: “We are delivering our modernisation plans for customers with almost £500 million of new trains under construction, £7 million spent so far on improving our stations, 70 refurbished trains in service, 400 extra people recruited, and much more to come by 2020.

“We are still prepared to guarantee jobs and hold pay reviews for our 1,300 conductors until the end of our franchise in 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that if RMT ends its strike action.

“RMT has recently rejected our request to hold a fresh ballot of Northern conductors after nearly a year of strike action.

“We are concentrating our efforts on running as many services as possible on Saturday 3 March to keep our customers moving.”

Andy Heath, Merseyrail managing director, said: “Yet again the RMT has announced a further strike, remaining entrenched in a position
which is to oppose any form of change with no desire to meet with us and reach an agreement.

“We have continually sought to reach a compromised solution, however the RMT remain intent on causing disruption to our customers. We will endeavour to provide the best possible rail service that we can to our customers, with the resources we have available, as we have been providing on previous strike days.

“I would again urge our guards to reconsider their strike action at a time when we should really be in talks about how we can work together
to give you clarity and security about your future, building on our commitment to guarantee you a job within our business. Talking is the only way that can be achieved.”

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