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 – The continuing RMT dispute & an interesting short video of the new trains that have sparked it

Merseyrail’s new Stadler Train

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/merseyrail-hit-strike-grand-national-12775553

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link above

Can’t help thinking that Merseytravel (as opposed to Merseyrail) in effect fired the starting gun for this dispute by not finding an agreement with the guards union RMT before they ordered trains that would operate without guards.

Merseyrail – So how many Customer Service staff will replace the Train Guards under Merseytravel’s plans?

Readers of this blog site will know that I have been trying to get behind the media stories regarding the the loss of train guards on Merseyrail when new driver only operated trains are delivered in around 3 years time.

I think that one reason for the move to guardless trains is to cut costs and a second is to address issues associated with accidents involving passengers. You takes your pick but I think the majority of us will probably think that the major influencing factor is likely to be money.

The other day, before the guards strike of Monday 13th March, I heard an RMT Trade Union representative say (during a TV interview) something along the lines of there would only be around 25% of Merseyrail trains where there will be a second member of staff on board after the new guardless trains are brought in. That seemed very low to me based on what I thought I had heard from organisations like Merseytravel. I thought they were indicating far more than that. It was time to try to get an explanation from Merseytravel so I asked Merseytravel Committee member Cllr. John Dodd to pursue this for me. He did and this is what came back from Merseytravel by way of an explanation:-

We fully recognise that there are some people who will be reassured by a second member of staff on a train and under the new arrangements, with around 60 dedicated on-board customer service staff targeted at key locations and times such as at night and during events, will substantially improve the visibility of on-board staff. There will continue to be revenue protection, security and cleaning staff on trains as there is today, as well as staffing retained at stations- stations that are staffed first to last train, and with passengers only ever around three minutes on average from a station.

While you can roughly calculate that 60 staff is around 25% of the current guards numbers, this doesn’t reflect increased customer interaction the new on-board staff will have. The current guards spend 10% of their time, on average, in the saloon engaging with passengers, around 60 staff who spend 100% of their time in the train saloon, will increase visibility of staff for customers.

So the 25% quoted by the RMT rep is about right but lets do the rough math. Around 240 guards are presently spending 10% of their time engaging with passengers on Merseyrail. This will be replaced by 60 staff spending 100% of the time engaging with passengers. So what Merseytravel are, I assume, trying to say is that there will be more on-board engagement with passengers under the new system.

But remember that Merseytravel are also saying this (see above) 60 dedicated on-board customer service staff targeted at key locations and times such as at night and during events, will substantially improve the visibility of on-board staff.

So the 60 customer service staff will seemingly not all be on the trains but at key locations (stations?), at night and during events. And of course they will presumably be working some form of shift pattern, have holidays and be ill so the number available every day and per train will actually be…..? Is this then, at least in part, an extension of the Customer Service staff we presently see particularly at night on Liverpool Central Station?

Well I don’t know about you but I have still not seen through the fog of this dispute and the devil will be in the detail of the Merseytravel plans as is always the case with industrial disputes. One thing I am pretty sure about though is that industrial relations seem to have been set back a long way by what Merseytravel and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority are promoting and that can’t surely be in interests of the travelling public.

Merseyrail’s RMT strike – A interesting aside

Merseyrail’s Kirkdale Motive Power Depot with Kirkdale Station in the background.

Merseyrail, as I understand it, applied for an injunction to stop today’s rail strike on the network on the basis that the decision to implement new trains (which will run without guards) was taken by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and, as such, Merseyrail had no choice but to implement the plans.

Merseytravel (a Committee of the Combined Authority), I understand, responded by saying that they were aware of the injunction, but that the injunction was a matter for Merseyrail as the employer of the staff represented by the RMT.

Just to untangle this a bit:-

The Merseytravel Committee is the public sector body which originally made the recommendation to order new trains that would not require train guards to operate them. That recommendation was then endorsed by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. However Merseyrail, the private sector franchisee, which presently operates the Merseyside rail network (and will continue do so after the new trains are delivered) has in effect been forced to enact the decision which has caused its RMT Union employees to go on strike.

No wonder Merseyrail are upset as they at face value they are the victims of the decision making process just as much as their train guards.

I don’t think you could make this all up, could you?