Rail workers start voting on industrial action

Northern train

11:38am 16th February 2017
(Updated 11:42am 16th February 2017)

Northern train drivers and guards are now being balloted for industrial action as part of a row over the role of guards.

The RMT union says that train operator Arriva Rail North has failed to provide assurances about having a second person on all passenger services.

More than 1,200 staff are going to vote on both strike action and action short of a strike in the ballot which will close on 28 February.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "The union's position on Driver Only Operation (DOO) is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any extensions of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.

"We asked Arriva North whether they were prepared to guarantee a second person on all passenger services operated by the company and whether that second person would retain full operational responsibility, for train despatch, Platform Train Interface and current rule book requirements for dealing with contingency arrangements, such as evacuation and protection of the train.

"The response from the company was 'we are not in a position to offer either of these guarantees at this present time'. This has been particularly disappointing, as Arriva North have reneged on their previous position when they stated they 'were prepared to offer guarantees around a second person on board trains in addition to the driver'.

"This dispute, and the ballot for industrial action, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the union's deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit.

"Ballot papers will go out today with the RMT calling for a resounding Yes vote. The union remains available for talks."

In response, a spokesman for Northern said: "Our focus is on protecting the jobs and pay of our people as we work to implement a modernisation programme that will maintain high safety standards, deliver better journeys and improve customer service. We therefore believe RMT is very premature in starting a ballot of conductors to vote for strike action.

"We want to agree a constructive resolution to this dispute and to continue the discussions we have started with RMT. Should any strike action go ahead, we want to reassure our customers that we are preparing plans to keep them moving."

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