RMT Union V Merseyrail – Still no resolution

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:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2018/09/06/merseytravel-merseyrail-liverpool-city-region-v-rmt-train-guards-dispute-ended-but/

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.

Northern Rail recruiting train guards whilst being in dispute with them

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its website – see link below:-

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/northern-rail-looking-train-conductors-15382492

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?!

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’s RMT dispute and the two Mayors as Labour starts to duff itself up over DOO

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.

www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/national-union-boss-launches-stinging-14010950

The Liverpool Echo has the story on its web site

Yes OK it’s an issue I have covered many, many times in recent months but this is a new angle. It shows how figures within the Labour Party are at odds with each other over the Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains that are coming to the Merseyrail network with the new Stadler rolling stock.

In essence the Echo article is one where the RMT union is accusing the two Labour Mayors of Liverpool (Joe Anderson) and Liverpool City Region (Steve Rotherham) of siding with private sector train operating company Merseyrail when the RMT quite obviously feels the Mayors should be siding with RMT.

Well you might say, that’s a statement of the blinding obvious but hang on a minute. I’ve pointed out before that in reality Merseyrail are only in effect a front for this dispute as it was created by Merseytravel the public sector transport committee of the Liverpool City Region which has a huge Labour majority. It was Merseytravel who approved the purchase of the new Stadler trains which can/will run without train guards. Merseyrail were simply told to get on with it after Merseytravel had thrown the fire cracker into their relationship with the RMT guards that Merseyrail employ. Yes Merseyrail have been loyal and taken on the dispute but let’s not forget where the dispute with RMT was created – at Merseytravel.

So you could say Labour backs DOO on Merseytravel Committee, RMT a Labour supporting union opposes DOO and our two Labour Mayors are caught in the middle being in effect accused by the RMT of backing DOO by the back door.

Merseytravel respond to a customer’s concerns about the removal of Guards from the new Merseyrail trains fleet

A new Stadler Merseyrail train artist impression

Merseyrail passenger Jen Robertson has recently raised concerns about the removal of train guards from the new fleet of Stadler trains on order for this rail franchise. The response to her concerns from Merseytravel is below.*

*****

Thank you for your e-mail about the new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network.

As you may be aware, a decision was made on the 16th December 2016 by elected councillors and council leaders of the Merseytravel Committee and the Combined Authority in the Liverpool City Region, to approve the purchase of a new fleet of trains for the Merseyrail network to replace the current life expired fleet, some of which are nearly 40 years old. These trains will be owned by the city region and operated by Merseyrail. Merseyrail will not gain financially from the new trains.

I was sorry to learn of your concerns around the new trains, which we believe will deliver a quicker, safer and more reliable rail service to our customers in the future. I can assure you that you will continue to see our staff as you travel across the network, including a new team of on-board colleagues that will play a key role in supporting our customers. The trains themselves will be safer with facilities like CCTV, emergency intercoms to summon assistance and clear lines of sight throughout the length of the vehicle to reduce blind spots with the potential for crime/antisocial behaviour. Please be assured we do fully understand yours and other customers concerns, and will continue to work to make our system ever safer. We are also working very closely with our colleagues to resolve the ongoing dispute.

Merseytravel have worked extensively with customers during the development of the proposals for the new trains, including carrying out dedicated workshops with members of the local community, co-ordinated by the independent national passenger organisation, Transport Focus. The workshops have directly supported the development of the design of the trains which were approved the Combined Authority in December.

I hope this further information helps to reassure you that the new trains will offer a safer and much improved customer experience for passengers on our network in the future. Please do contact me again if you wish to discuss this any more.

*****

Of course this is just one side of the story, a story which is leading to a great deal of industrial unrest in the rail industry both here on Merseyside and across other rail franchises too where the guards are being removed.

For me the feeling that the guards are being removed more for cost cutting purposes than anything else is troubling. I am also unsure as to how a couple of recent accidents on Merseyrail, where guards have seemingly been blamed for passenger injury, plays into the decision to removed guards. The same decision making process will still need to be made by the driver when the guards are removed so how can an already busy driver be better at making such decisions than a guard?

I remain troubled by the removal of guards from trains.

* Merseyrail is the private sector company which runs the franchise in the Greater Merseyside area.

Merseytravel is the public sector Committee of the Liverpool City Region which controls the franchise.

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.