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7th February 2019

RMT finally suspends Northern strike action

There have been 47 separate days of industrial action over the issue of guards on trains, causing delays for passengers
RMT finally suspends Northern strike action
Photo: El Pollock @Wikimedia Commons

The RMT union has called off strike action on Northern Rail, after being guaranteed a conductor on all trains, including Northern’s new fleet, for the duration of the current franchise.

There have been 47 separate days of industrial action over the issue of guards on trains, causing delays for passengers.

A fierce row between RMT, the union which represents rail workers, and Northern, the train operating company, has gone on for around two years surrounding driver-only operated trains. Rail unions argue that automatic doors alone are not safe and a conductor is also needed on board.

RMT announced a ‘breakthrough’ in the talks after ‘substantial’ progress was made during talks which also involved conciliation service ACAS.

Despite the calling off of industrial action, Northern tweeted that it is “unfortunately too late” to reintroduce a full timetable in time for the 9th of February when more strike action is due to commence.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: “Firstly I want to pay tribute to RMT’s members on Northern Rail whose resilience and determination though two years and 47 days of action has been the foundation on which today’s major breakthrough has been based. They are an absolute credit to both this union and the wider movement.

“I also want to thank the travelling public for their extraordinary support and both Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram for their efforts that have been important in allowing us to break the deadlock today.

“Today’s offer of a guarantee of a conductor on all services throughout the duration of the franchise, including the new fleet, is the substantial progress we have been pushing for and has allowed RMT’s executive to take the decision to suspend the current action and allow for further talks to now take place with all stakeholders around the operational details.”

Reacting to the news that the RMT have suspended their strike action on Northern, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham said: “Taking guards off the trains was always going to undermine confidence in our railways.  That is why I have backed the RMT’s call to keep the guard on our trains and I am pleased that this principle has now been accepted by the Department for Transport and Northern.

“Today’s announcement is good news for the public. It will help to keep trains safer and more accessible for everybody. In particular, I want to thank Brendan Barber who mediated between the operator and the RMT, as well as the Minister Andrew Jones, who has taken a constructive approach to this issue since he took office.

“While this is a welcome step forward it is not yet a final agreement.  I hope Brendan Barber can bring the two sides together to reach that soon.  In addition, we now need to see a full service being restored on Sundays so passengers have a full weekend rail service once again.”

Josh Sandiford

Josh Sandiford

Deputy Editor

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