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Guards' disputes continue

November 2016: RMT rail workers take their case to Westminster. Photo Workers.

Members of rail union RMT in the north of England have now taken their 40th day of strike action in support of their dispute with Arriva Rail North (trading as Northern and owned by DB, the German state railways). 

The company refuses to give the union assurances about the future role of guards, with RMT seeking guarantees that there will be a second safety-critical person on every train. Despite receiving financial and other backing from the government and the Department for Transport, Arriva Rail North is losing passengers – not surprising after its timetable fiasco earlier this year – and is reported to be trying to renegotiate the franchise agreement. 

Nevertheless, Arriva Rail North continues to refuse to get round the negotiating table to bring the dispute to a conclusion. This is despite the fact that most other companies have reached either agreement with RMT, or are engaged in meaningful talks.

RMT said it is “angry, frustrated and determined to carry on the fight for a safe, secure and accessible railway for all”.

General Secretary Mick Cash said, “It has only been the resilience of RMT members and our supporters from the ‎travelling public, whose solidarity and determination have been instrumental in keeping the focus of the dispute on the crucial point of a guarantee of a guard on the train. It’s time for Arriva Rail North to stop taking instructions from this collapsing government, get out of the bunker and start talking seriously and positively with the union…instead of gambling with public safety as they pump up their profits.”

South Western Railway (SWR), owned by First Group and Chinese metro company MTR, has displayed a similar degree of intransigence. The RMT has therefore confirmed a further block of strike action over the Christmas holiday period.

Meanwhile, London Underground drivers in Aslef at Barking District Line depot and Barking Hammersmith & City Line depot have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action during January after the company cancelled long-standing agreements.