Passing Merseyrail trains at Aughton Park Station on Merseyrail’s Northern LIne to Ormskirk
It’s a while since I’ve dropped into the long-running dispute between RMT trade union and Merseyrail, but there’s been some recent movement. Here’s a link back to a previous posting of mine on this subject:-
And the movement? The latest peace deal has been rejected by Merseyrail’s RMT members in a ballot. According to the RMT website, there were 217 eligible members in the ballot of which 182 voted i.e. 84%. I often wonder why in such trade union ballots some members choose not to vote. Yes, there’ll be illness etc. but can we assume those not voting were not bothered either way? The result was 83 accepted the deal and 99 voted to reject it.
So far I’ve not been able to track down much else about where this long-running dispute is now headed and as an outsider looking in, even one who is a retired trade union officer, the alternatives look rather bleak to me. I’m wondering whether those voting no to the deal had an eye to the ticket checking (revenue protection) part of it and a wish not to have to? Although ticket checking onboard trains by guards is still reasonably common, not so on Merseyrail who seem to have opted more for mobile teams to enforce those travelling ticketless over the past few years. However, with this new and now rejected deal the guards, renamed Train Managers, would be walking through the new Class 777 Stadler trains checking tickets and of course, dealing with the confrontations flowing from such interactions with folk deliberately trying to travel for free. My feeling is that the revenue protection part of the new Train Manager’s job is aimed, at least in part, at raising more money to assist in paying the wages of the Train Managers*.
It will be interesting to see if the rejected deal now becomes the marker for another fully-fledged industrial dispute between Merseyrail and the RMT.
A Merseyrail train just noth of Maghull Station heading for Liverpool on the Ormskirk LIne.
* I keep coming back to a point that I’ve made many times before. The fact is that the Liverpool City Region ordered new trains which were intended to run without guards being required at all. On that basis, a dispute with the unions representing the train operator’s staff was always going to be on the cards. You can’t help but wonder if the Labour-run City Region was looking for a fight with Merseyrail’s trade unions all along? The City Region came unstuck when the RMT and passenger groups said they wanted a 2nd person onboard each Merseyrail train to aid passenger safety. This argument gained traction and the politicians were forced to back down.
The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-
And isn’t this the very section of its workforce that Northern seems to be in almost permanent dispute with via the RMT trade union due to this franchise operator’s wish to run trains without train guards?!
A 507/508 EMU Merseyrail unit at Crescent Road level crossing – Birkdale, Southport.
So the RMT guards dispute is finally over and the near end result seems to be about the best that could have been hoped for by the RMT trade union and indeed the travelling public who backed them in their quest to have a 2nd member of staff on every Merseyrail Train when the new Stadler trains are introduced.
BUT, and its a big but, of course the new train fleet ordered by Merseytravel (the Transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region) was the cause of the dispute and I’m surprised that other commentators don’t seem to have grasped that pertinent point i.e. that Merseyrail were as much the victims of the political decision to have only a Driver Only Operation as the RMT trade union.
I do wonder whether behind the scenes the owners of the Merseyrail franchise (Serco and Abellio) had signaled (no railway pun intended here) that they had had a gut full of being the fall-guys for this dispute?
A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression
The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site – see link below:-
A dispute started by politicians has been won by the trade union they took on and eventually lost to.
Whilst Merseyrail, the train operator, was in effect dumped on and made to take on the RMT by Merseytravel (the Transport Committee of the Liverpool City Region) the real battle was always with the politicians of the Liverpool City Region. The fact is the politicians lost because they never had the backing of the travelling public who clearly wanted a second person on each and every Merseyrail train.
RMT Trade union’s ‘Keep the Guards Campaign’ 1, leading Merseyside politicians Nil. Oh yes and it was our local Labour political leaders whom the RMT took on and beat.
With thanks to Keith Page and Roy Connell for the lead to this posting.
I guess many of passengers using Northern Rail in recent times will have asked themselves this question. Cancelled trains due to a lack of rolling stock and or drivers/guards seem to be an everyday occurrence nowadays and of course, as with Merseyrail, Northern are deeply into industrial action with rail union RMT over loss of train guards on new rolling stock.
I’m told that locally cancelled trains on the Ormskirk – Preston Line are now a common occurrence, but it’s clear that Northern’s problems extend over the whole franchise area and it must be the case that Arriva, who own the Northern Rail franchise, are under pressure.
That northern MP’s are getting to the end of their tether with Northern is to be expected as their constituents fill the MP’s post bags with stories of poor performance. That frustration amongst northern MP’s leads to this (see link below):-
And of course we have seen that the services on the Southport – Wigan – Manchester line are soon to go into Manchester Victoria Station, with few going to Manchester Piccadilly and none to Manchester Airport anymore.
All in all it seems that Northern’s passengers have a lot to be unhappy about but how are the problems going to get fixed?
Merseyrail’s new Stadler Trains, to be delivered in a couple of years time, are at the heart of the dispute about driver only operated trains.
The BBC has an article about the next round of strike action on its web site – see link above
Oh no you might say Robertson’s banging on about those interminable railway strikes again. Well yes he is but from Jeremy’s perspective! You see a couple of days ago I saw a tweet from JC which said this:-
‘This @RMTunion film shows why it is essential to keep guards on our trains. Please share and support this important campaign. #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain’
Well no problem with the tweet in itself BUT just hang on a minute Jeremy, why did Labour-run Merseytravel order new trains for Merseyrail that are intended to be run without train guards then? The RMT are right about Keeping the guards, in my view, but Labour is complicit in the guards getting axed here on Merseyside.
May I suggest to Jeremy that he tells his comrades on Merseyside that the order for trains meant to run without guards needs to be revised so that they run with train guards, then his Merseyside chums will no longer be embarrassing him.