2,000 rail work­ers strike

Rail (UK) - - Front Page - Paul Clifton Con­tribut­ing Writer rail@bauer­me­dia.co.uk @PaulCliftonBBC

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.”

ROBERT FRANCE.

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.

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