Northern seek independent enquiry to resolve RMT dispute

Northern class 319 EMU stabled in siding

19th December 2018

Northern have formally written to ACAS with a request for the service to use it's powers and establish an independent enquiry to look at the ongoing issues in the dispute with RMT.

The enquiry would look at the future role of the second person that will be on Northern services in addition to the driver, that will help customers with accessibility, security, ticketing, information and any other help required.

This Saturday sees the 41st day of strike action since the start of the dispute and this is an attempt by Northern to get the RMT involved in discussions to resolve the standoff. Northern have invited the RMT for talks with ACAS on several occasions but without any significant progress being made.

Richard Allan, Deputy Managing Director, Northern, said:

“The RMT dispute means customers, businesses and the wider economy in the North have suffered the cost of 40 days of RMT strikes, including every Saturday in September, October, November and now December. Customers, employers and colleagues are looking for both parties to resolve the dispute.

“More than 50% of all rail journeys in the UK are made on driver-controlled trains and recently the Department for Transport and Transport for the North publicly confirmed that a second person – in addition to the driver – would be retained on Northern services. This second person will provide customer service, including meeting customer needs on accessibility, safety, security, ticketing and information. Despite this, the RMT continues with its strike action.

“We call on RMT to join us in committing to the inquiry and suspending its industrial action whilst the inquiry takes place. This would demonstrate commitment from both sides to try and resolve the issues, reassuring customers and stakeholders that every endeavour is being made by both sides.”

The RMT immediately responded to the Northern statement, General Secretary Mick Cash had this to say:

“The call for an inquiry is nothing more than a PR stunt and we have not seen any proposals from Northern Rail whatsoever that would make serious progress in terms of resolving the dispute. The company are seeking to kick the issue of rail safety into the long grass indefinitely rather than facing up to the fundamental issue of the guard guarantee on their trains and there is no way that RMT will allow them to get away with this chicanery.

“The answer to resolving this dispute is not an inquiry but meaningful negotiations. However, not only is the government working behind the scenes to block such negotiations but it is wilfully using taxpayers money to bail out Northern Rail for revenues lost as a result of strike action meaning the company have no financial incentive whatsoever to settle in a serious fashion.

“We don’t need an inquiry, we need genuine and meaningful ACAS talks focussed on retaining a guard on Northern trains with the full suite of safety and operational competencies including at the crucial platform/train interface. RMT stands ready for talks but we will not allow the company to railroad the issues at the heart of the dispute with meaningless gestures designed to buy time and delay a solution.

“The RMT action remains on.”

Author: Darren Porter
Image: Northern Rail