Merseyrail – Who pays industrial action costs? You may be surprised by the answer from the RMT union

Readers of this blog site will know that I have been keeping a close eye on the industrial dispute between the RMT union and Merseyrail/Merseytravel which has been caused by Merseytravel’s decision to confirm an order for new trains that are intended to be run without train guards.

One issue which I have not covered so far is who pays for the strikes. What I mean is who pays financial compensation to Merseyrail (the private sector train operating company) because they are unable to run a full train service on strike days? Here’s an explanation from the RMT union. My understanding is that Merseyrail agrees that this is the case but if I have it wrong please let me know.

A 507/508 EMU Merseyrail unit at Crescent Road level crossing – Birkdale, Southport.

RMT Press Office:

Merseyside tax payers and passengers to foot bill for Merseyrail revenue loss during Guard strikes.

RAIL UNION RMT today exposes documents which reveal that Merseyside tax payers and passengers are to foot the bill for revenue loss as a result of strike action on Merseyrail over plans to remove Guards from trains.

Dutch state owned operator Merseyrail will not lose a penny thanks to a deal signed with Liverpool politicians.

Instead, astonishingly, a clause in the agreement between Merseyrail and the controlling transport authority Merseytravel has shown that Merseyrail – which is which is also owned by Corporate giant SERCO – are protected from any revenue loss caused by industrial action.

The “Force Majeure” clause in the agreement says:

“The Operator shall not be responsible for any failure to perform its obligations …. to the extent that, such failure is caused by or is due to any Force Majeure Event…

“and such an event includes

“any strike or other industrial action by any or all of the employees of the Operator.”

The latest revelation in what is fast becoming a Merseytravel new trains’ scandal comes on top of the news that the profit share agreement signed by Merseytravel means Merseyrail are taking up to a quarter of all passenger fares in profits while not paying a penny for the new trains.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“First, we learn that Liverpool’s politicians signed a deal with Merseyrail that allows the company to skim a quarter of passenger fares in profit whilst paying nothing for new trains and instead getting rid of train guards.”

“Now we find out that another part of the deal they have signed is that Merseyrail are protected from any losses as a result of industrial action and instead hard pressed Merseyside tax payers and passengers will have to pay for Merseyrail’s war on our Guards.”

“There is a growing stench of scandal surrounding the new Merseyrail trains in which the fare payer loses out, the taxpayer lose money, passengers lose the protection of train guards, guards lose their jobs and the only winner is Dutch owned Merseyrail”

“We are calling for an immediate inquiry into this whole murky deal”

Ends

Notes
The Force Majeure clause is Clause 5.4 and can be found on pages 55 – 57 of the agreement.

So lets get this straight, Merseytravel the Labour-run public sector body orders trains without guards which causes this dispute. Then public money is used to compensate Merseyrail, the private sector train operating company, who will lose business due to the industrial action. So that’s how public money is spent then?……

With thanks to Cliff Mainey for the lead to this posting.

Merseyrail – RMT Guards Dispute – The other side of the coin

Merseyrail’s new Stadler Trains, to be delivered in a couple of years time, are at the heart of this industrial dispute about driver only operated trains.

Yesterday I published the RMT press release following the break down of talks with Merseyrail over the loss of guards on Merseyrail trains. So to be balanced here is the Merseyrail press release too.

Having been involved in employment relations for many years neither press release surprises me and both are skilled in the art of propaganda. The real issue is however where do the facts sit in this propaganda war?


Merseyrail Disappointed That RMT Walks Away From Substantial Offer On Staffing Evening Trains

Following an invitation from Merseyrail to hold meaningful negotiations about the introduction of new trains, the RMT and Merseyrail met today, for the second time in 11 days.

“We are committed to bringing an end to this dispute and to ensure that we introduce our new trains in a way that works for our passengers and staff”.

Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde
Managing Director

Commenting on the talks, Jan Chaudhry-van der Velde, Merseyrail’s managing director, said:

‘We met with our colleagues in the RMT today. We are pleased that we got around the table again and continued talking.

‘We are committed to bringing an end to this dispute and to ensure that we introduce our new trains in a way that works for our passengers and staff. We know, for example, that our passengers value a visible on-board staffing presence when travelling late at night, despite our network being one of the safest in the country. In the talks which took place just over a week ago, we tabled a number of ideas to find a way forward to provide reassurances to our staff and passengers, including some proposals to deploy a member of staff on trains after 8pm.

‘We are therefore disappointed that, despite putting these late night train staffing proposals on the table, the RMT have apparently not moved from their original position, and therefore we anticipate they will call further strike dates. We at Merseyrail are trying hard to create some middle ground so that the negotiation can move forward. It is clear that the RMT are unwilling to move from their entrenched position.

‘We will now prepare for the next strike action in order to provide the best possible service for our customers, but will keep the door open for the RMT to re-join talks with us.’

For me the real issue here is not what either the RMT or Merseyrail are saying because the heart of this dispute is a decision made by Merseytravel, the public sector transport Committee for Merseyside. As I have said many times before they created the dispute by confirming an order for new trains that will run without train guards. Both Merseyrail and the Guards RMT union are in effect victims of that decision.

The other interesting part of this dispute is that Merseyside residents seem to be generally behind the RMT union and supportive of the industrial action they are taking. That should worry the Labour-run Transport Committee who it seems locals must feel are the cause of the industrial unrest.

Merseyrail – RMT Guards Dispute – Talks collapse as employer rejects compromise says union

Below is the press release from the train guard’s union RMT following the collapse of talks which were aimed at finding a solution to the bitter dispute on Merseyrail over the hugely controversial removal of guards from local trains.

I have covered this matter many times before. My last posting on this subject can be accessed via the link below:-

Merseyrail’s new Stadler Trains, to be delivered in a couple of years time, are at the heart of this industrial dispute about driver only operated trains.

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/03/18/merseyrail-so-how-many-customer-service-staff-will-replace-the-train-guards-under-merseytravels-plans/

Merseyrail guards talks collapse as company rejects compromise

TALKS AIMED at ending the Merseyrail guards’ dispute collapsed today when the company flatly refused to discuss RMT’s compromise proposal.

The union had refrained from calling more strike action on Merseyrail to coincide with strikes in separate disputes at Arriva Rail North and Virgin East Coast, in order to give the talks a fair wind.

But RMT’s offer to put the contentious issue of train despatch and door operation into a joint safety working-group was rejected out of hand by Merseyrail bosses, who know that the Merseyside public will be left to pick up the bill for the dispute, thanks to a reimbursement clause hidden in their contract.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:

“We held off from calling further strike action on Merseyrail to give these talks a chance, but our good faith has been thrown straight back in our faces and once more all they wanted to discuss was the terms of our surrender.”

“Our negotiating team put forward a compromise that would have allowed us to talk about guaranteeing a second safety-critical crew member aboard every train separate to the issue of train despatch and door control.

“We offered to accept recommendations on despatch and door control from a safety working group that would include the company, the unions, the manufacturers and the safety agencies, if Merseyrail accepted the principle of a second safety-critical crew-member on every train.”

Regional Organiser John Tilley, who led the RMT negotiating team, said:

“It is difficult to understand why Merseyrail invited us to talks in the first place, as they have not budged even a fraction of an inch.

“Their invitation said that they wanted to see an end to the dispute, but when we got round the table there was still nothing on it but the complete abolition of Merseyrail guards.

“Our proposal would have taken the issue of who opens the doors out of the talks altogether, but the company, which had previously tried to hide behind the politicians, even said it would be disappointed if the new Metro Mayor and city-region authorities ordered a rethink

“That is not just another stab in the back for our members, but a total insult to the Merseyside public who have overwhelmingly supported the campaign to keep guards on Merseyrail.

“We have tried our damnedest to reach a settlement, but Merseyrail’s intransigence leaves us with no alternative but to return to the picket lines.”

I wonder how Merseyrail and their political masters on Labour-run Merseytravel will respond? After all it was the political decision made by Merseytravel to confirm an order for new trains without the need for them to be operated with train guards that signaled (sorry could not resist that one) the start of this dispute.

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

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.

Driver only trains – Study shows it makes passengers less safe – Well that’s a surprise NOT

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station.

A Merseyrail electric unit at Bootle New Strand Station.

I have commented on this matter a number of times previously, mainly with regard to Merseytravel (the Labour-run Transport Committee of Liverpool City Region) trying not to say in public what we all think they are up to i.e. getting rid of guards on Merseyrail trains when the new trains/rolling stock is ordered.

Merseytravel logo

Here’s a press release from the RMT union on the matter and it is worth reading as the commentary is on a report funded by train operating companies.

Train company funded report exposes dangers of Driver Only Operation ‎but recommends ploughing on regardless

A report funded by the Train Operating Companies own safety body has warned that introducing Driver Only Operation, and sacking guards on train services, will increase risks to passengers, RMT can reveal today.

‎Incredibly, despite that admission, the report dismisses those risks and recommends that every guard should be sacked in order to cream off another £350 million in profits.

“Evaluating technological solutions to support driver only operation train dispatch” by the Train Operating Company (TOC’s) funded Railway Safety Standards Board (RSSB) warns that,‎

“DOO does not create additional undesired events but may increase the likelihood of an event occurring or increase the severity of its consequence.”

It goes on to say that “The risk level of each undesired event will vary according to platform features, rolling stock, driver behaviour and passenger behaviour and passenger flows.”

Yet despite the risk to passengers the report says the TOCs should sack guards on every train company. This will rake in £350 million over five years (see timetable below).

It concludes that “Analysis of the business case indicates that the expected payback time for national rollout under the same assumptions would be three years, and that the best estimate for return over 5 years would be £350m.”‎

Savings are to come directly from employing less staff to help passengers and by downgrading safety protections for passengers .

The report argues that “This can arise from employing fewer staff, and from replacing guards with cheaper non-safety critical on-train staff (NSCOS)” and that “Safety critical training for guards would no longer be required, which would reduce the training requirement from 12 weeks to 4 weeks for the second staff member on board”.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

“It is extraordinary that the rail industry’s own risk assessment body, funded by the train companies, can find on the one hand that Driver Only Operation is downright dangerous and on the other recommend ploughing on regardless in the name of profit. ‎This is a classic case of ‘who pays the piper calls the tune’.

“It is appalling that the RSSB can adopt this cavalier attitude and allow themselves to be wheeled out by a company like Govia Thameslink as cheerleaders for DOO. They are destroying their own credibility and making a mockery of their claim to be independent.”

Ends