Merseytravel – Why are they getting off scot-free over RMT train guards dispute because they caused it?

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mcdonalds-arriva-struck-deals-striking-14120598

The Liverpool Echo has details of the forthcoming Merseyrail strike days via the article linked above

So the Merseyrail train guards dispute rumbles on with no sign of a resolution. At face value it’s the RMT Union against Merseyrail, the private sector franchise operator of trains on Merseyside. But hang on that’s far too simplistic an assessment of the dispute. Why? Because the genesis of the dispute is firmly within the hands of Merseytravel the public sector transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region.

It was Merseytravel who agreed to purchase new trains that can/will run without train guards not Merseyrail

This simple fact seems to have been lost for reasons I can’t quite get my head around. Yes Merseyrail have to do what Merseytravel tells them to do so they are pursuing the dispute in effect on behalf of Merseytravel. That being the case why is it not Merseytravel under pressure?

Answers on a postcard……..

Note – My letter on this subject was published in the Aintree & Maghull Champion Newspaper on 10th January

Merseyrail – RMT Guards vote for Industrial Action

The present Merseyrail rolling stock (Class 507/8 EMU’s) at Southport Station.

Below is the RMT Union notice which was sent to members of the Merseytravel Committee today:-

RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that members have voted overwhelmingly for both strike action and action short of a strike in a ballot for industrial action after Merseyrail’s continued failure to provide cast iron assurances around the future of the safety critical role of the guard.

Action has by RMT’s Merseyrail guards and drivers has been confirmed as follows: Members not to book on for any shifts between 0001hrs and 23.59 hrs on Monday 13th March. In addition members will not work any rest days from 00.01 hrs on Tuesday 7th March indefinitely.

81.8% of members voted for strike action with 93.5% backing action short of a strike.

In addition, the union is kick starting a renewed campaign, involving the general public and targeting politicians across the area served by Merseyrail, aimed at maximising political and public support for RMT’s fight for a guaranteed guard on the company’s services.

RMT General secretary Mick Cash said:

“This ballot result sends out the clearest possible message to Merseyrail, Merseytravel and politicians across the area that RMT is prepared to stand up and fight for public safety and the guard guarantee. The company now has the best part of two weeks to sit down with us, address the core issues at the heart of this dispute and negotiate a settlement before the action commences.

“The union’s position on Driver Only Operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train. It is the failure of Merseyrail to give guarantees on those basic principles that has led to the current dispute and the campaign of industrial action.

“RMT asked Merseyrail to give the union assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services. We set out clear deadlines giving the company ample time to give those assurances but the company have flatly refused to consider a guarantee of a second safety critical person on the new trains”.

“This dispute, and the industrial action announced today, were entirely preventable if the company had listened and to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit. The blame for the industrial action, and the disruption it will cause, lies solely at the door of Merseyrail and those who are happy to put private profits before public safety.

“Merseyrail are also completely ignoring the clear wishes of their own passengers, who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of Driver Only Operated trains on their network. That pig-headed attitude has forced the union’s hand and the idea that we would compromise on the fundamental issue of rail safety is absurd. The union remains available for meaningful talks and we would expect Merseyrail to take up that offer as a matter of urgency.”

I can’t say that this has come as any surprise at all as Merseytravel, the public sector body that controls the Merseyrail Train Franchise, all but invited the strike in my view by choosing to purchase new trains which will be DOO – Driver Only Operated.

Like many I view this move towards taking away train guards with great scepticism as I don’t think Merseytravel have convinced anyone so far that it will actually lead to a safer local rail network for Merseyside. It does not help that Merseytravel seem to have differing answers to the question why they have decided to go down the route of Driver Only Operation. But of course I also view with horror the prospect of an industrial dispute and railway strikes such as that which is presently ongoing in the South East of England over this very issue.

I suspect this dispute has a long way to run and the victims of it will be the travelling public and Merseyrail staff it seems.

My thanks to Cllr. John Dodd for the lead to this posting.

RMT ‘Keep the guards’ campaign – Merseytravel responds

Readers of this blog may know that the RMT union has launched a ‘keep the guards’ campaign following it being suggested that the new fleet of trains for Merseyrail will be/could be driver only operation.

I have covered this issue previously as it is one which many see as being a negative step that does not need to be taken by Merseyrail, the private sector operator of Liverpool’s electrified local railway network or Merseytravel the public sector authority which oversees Merseyrail.

When Merseytravel were approached by Radio Merseyside below is how they responded following the launch of the RMT campaign to keep the guards on the Merseyrail network when new trains are introduced after 2020.

The statement provided to the radio station, which was read out on air, said that at this early stage no decisions had been taken into whether the new trains will be Driver Controlled Operated (DCO) – where the driver with the use of cameras and associated technology is responsible for the safe dispatch of the train rather than guards.

It was also highlighted that while Merseytravel will not be specifying that any new trains should be DCO, this method of dispatch has become increasingly commonplace in the UK (such as on the Tube in London and the Tyne and Wear Metro) and we do expect this may feature in the proposals put to us. It was stressed that Merseytravel are committed to maintaining a staff presence on a new fleet.

I have the feeling that this issue has a long way to run yet although Merseytravel could settle it now by simply saying that they will not be specifying driver only operation on the new trains. The ball or is that train seems to be firmly in Merseytravel’s court or is that siding.