2,000 rail workers strike
UP to 2,000 RMT workers at Southern, Northern and Merseyrail will stage 24-hour strikes on Saturday April 8, in their bitter dispute over the role of conductors and driver-controlled operation.
The strikes coincide with the Grand National at Aintree, for which Merseyrail normally lays on strengthened services. Aintree station is close to the racecourse.
Talks between Merseyrail and RMT took place on March 20 but quickly broke down, with each side blaming the other for refusing to discuss its major concerns.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT recognises the severe impact the action will have on Grand National Day, but we are dealing with an employer that refuses to listen or engage with the union. We ask the public to understand that we have no option but to take this high-profile action to force the company back to the negotiating table.”
The rail industry was quick to condemn the RMT action. Rail Delivery Group Chief Executive Paul Plummer said: “It is unacceptable to play havoc with an iconic British race that’s’ watched around the world.”
Merseyrail Managing Director Jan Chaudhry-van de Velde said: “Damaging the whole of the Liverpool city region on one of its proudest and most important days of the year is impossible to understand. The Saturday of the Grand National is one of our busiest times of the year. It cannot be right that the RMT executive, sitting in London, has taken an unnecessary decision that represents a barefaced attack on the reputation of our region.”
Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Arriva Rail North, commented: “We are surprised, as we had been in contact with RMT officials in the previous 24 hours to organise further talks.”
RMT moved a previously announced strike on Southern from April 4 to April 8, and claimed this was to allow talks to take place. Southern had offered talks on April 4 on the condition that the strike that day was lifted.
The union also held strikes at the three train operators on
Monday March 13. It is thought this was the biggest day of industrial action since the industry was privatised. It was the 30th day of action on Southern but the first on the other franchises, as the RMT seeks to extend opposition to Driver Only Operation.
Merseyrail had promised to operate almost half its services, but on the day it managed only one in five trains. The company’s Deputy Managing Director Andy Heath said many drivers in the ASLEF union had refused to cross picket lines and had joined the action.
Trains ran every 30 minutes on routes that usually have double that frequency, and did not stop at some stations. There was a full break in service from 1100 to 1400, and no trains on the Ellesmere Port, Kirkby and Hunts Cross lines.
Northern said it ran 40% of its normal timetable, but included 300 replacement bus services in that figure. Trains ran on principal routes between 0700 and 1900.
Southern said it ran 90% of its 2,200 trains, with a reduced service on Coastway routes. Passenger Services Director Angie Doll said: “We have shown that we can now run almost all our services during an RMT strike.”
A spokesman for Arriva Rail North said: “Our modernisation proposals are still in the early stages, so it is disappointing that RMT is taking strike action. As part of our proposals we are prepared to offer guarantees on jobs and pay to our people.”
Northern 156460 leads 156443 away from Lancaster on March 13, with the 1720 to Barrow. This was the last train to Barrow during the RMT strike. Up to 2,000 staff across three TOCs went on strike in what is believed to be the biggest day of industrial action since privatisation.