RMT and Northern strike talks collapse

04th December 2018

After what seemed a breakthrough last week in the strike action on Northern, the situation is no further forward after talks collapsed at ACAS.

The RMT (Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport) has said that it has been left “angry, frustrated and determined to fight on in the interests of passenger safety” after talks to stop the dispute collapsed. The union had expressed hope that talks to negotiate a settlement to the long-running dispute over the role of the guard and the extension of driver controlled operation would be successful in light of statements made from Department for Transport and Transport for the North.

The breakdown in talks happened when the union realised that there is no process or will from the company to address the unions three fundamental points around the role of a second person on Northern trains. In particular, there is still no guarantee of a second member of staff on board to perform safety critical duties. It also became apparent that there is still no assurance on any funding package to maintain this second member of staff, despite the statements made by the DfT last week.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said:

“RMT’s negotiating team arrived at the talks this morning only to find that they were shunted into a side room while the company played for time. They even issued a bulletin to staff making it clear that the ACAS talks were nothing but a stunt on their part to buy a bit of time and try and hoodwink the union into suspending action.

"Even after we eventually got in the room with ARN it was clear that they were either unwilling or unable to address the unions position on the three key points we have set out and the fundamental issues at ‎the heart of the dispute.

"Frankly, it defies belief that despite the spin from the Government last week the very basic issue of a funding package to underpin a second person on Northern trains has been booted into the long grass. That is a disgrace.

“RMT is sick of being treated with contempt and taken for a ride by those at the controls of the basket-case Northern Rail franchise and their paymasters in Government. Their cynical actions have collapsed the talks process and the programme of strike action remains on and the blame for that lies fair and square with the company.”

Northern later replied with the following statement from Richard Allan, Deputy Managing Director at Northern:

“Today at ACAS talks, Northern went in to the meeting with an open mind and made it clear we wish to continue discussions and all options will be considered that involve the deployment of two members of staff on Northern services. Any customer who needs help with access, personal security, information, ticketing and so on will have a member of staff, in addition to the driver, on-board trains to help them. On behalf of customers and stakeholders, and in the spirit of working together, Northern would welcome RMT postponing its planned industrial action. We look forward to further talks at ACAS.”

Author: Darren Porter
Image: RMT