Anger as rail strike talks fail

RMT Union members picket outside Wigan Wallgate on Monday, March 13.
RMT Union members picket outside Wigan Wallgate on Monday, March 13.

A war of words has broken out between a rail union and a train operator after talks to avoid the latest strike in a safety dispute broke down.

Members of the RMT employed by Arriva Rail North, which runs services throughout the borough, will walk out on Friday in a long-running conflict over passenger safety.

It is that flagrant disregard for the safety issues at the heart of the dispute which leaves us with no option but to press ahead with the campaign of strike action

Mick Cash

Both sides have been critical of each other over the 24-hour strike, with the union saying no progress at all was made in discussions and Arriva retorting the RMT was not willing to negotiate.

The firm has warned that trains will be extremely busy and travellers should expect disruption on Friday, with around 40 per cent of normal services and around 300 rail replacement buses running across the network.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The sheer intransigence of Arriva Rail North means that the action this Friday goes ahead as planned.

“The responsibility for the inevitable disruption lies wholly with the company. We are angry and frustrated that Arriva have thrown out a perfectly reasonable proposal to invite the Department for Transport to join us in three-way talks aimed at finding a solution.

“The public, who support RMT’s campaign for a guarantee of a guard on their trains, will be appalled that Arriva Rail North have failed yet again to offer any kind of progress whatsoever in the talks and have instead opted to try and bulldoze through their plans regardless.

“It is that flagrant disregard for the safety issues at the heart of the dispute which leaves us with no option but to press ahead with the campaign of strike action.”

Richard Allan, deputy managing director of Arriva Rail North, said: “It is disappointing that RMT was unwilling to move from its current position during our talks yesterday.

“Our employees want us to talk about changes we need to make to the on-board role as we modernise our railway. We believe we would keep a second person on many of our services and, at some locations, we may choose to staff the station to give better support to customers. In addition to protecting jobs and current pay, we are also willing to offer future, annual pay reviews for existing conductors if we can agree a deal with RMT.”