More strikes called on Northern, SWR after talks failed

The RMT has called more strikes on Northern and South Western Railway during October, after talks failed to end the disputes over on-train staffing.

South Western has clashed with the RMT over the justification for further industrial action.

There will now be further strikes on Northern on three Saturdays, while a new 48-hour strike has been called on SWR.

The union’s general secretary Mick Cash has accused Northern of ‘intransigence’, while he maintains that South Western has been ’playing with words’.

Two 24-hour strikes already arranged on Northern for 22 and 29 September are now set to go ahead, and further Saturday walkouts have been called for 6, 13 and 20 October.

On South Western Railway the RMT has announced a 48-hour strike on 5 and 6 October, affecting a Friday and Saturday.

Talks between the RMT and Northern’s owner Arriva Rail North at Acas broke down on Wednesday (19 September).

After that meeting, Mick Cash said: ‘This dispute, and the further industrial action we have announced today, would have been entirely preventable if the company had listened to the union’s deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously, stuck to their earlier commitments and had put passenger safety before profit. In spite of the collapse of this week’s talks, RMT will not be deterred in its efforts and will continue to campaign both industrially and politically.’

The new strikes on South Western are the result of a further ballot, required by law, in which the RMT said 88 per cent had supported further action.

Mick Cash said: ‘Before the result of the re-ballot I sent a letter to the company on 30 August asking them to make the necessary arrangements for a meeting to take place. However, I never received a response from the company and they have made no attempt at trying to resolve this dispute since.’

South Western Railway responded: ‘We are extremely disappointed that yet again the RMT has decided to disrupt the lives of customers and employees rather than participate in constructive talks to help resolve this matter for their members.

‘Contrary to the RMT’s claims of “rock-solid support” for a mandate to strike, the fact is that when factoring in non-RMT members and those RMT members who did not vote, only around half of our total number of guards voted for strike action. The RMT is misleading the public by claiming they have an 88 per cent mandate. We have offered a framework for talks which would guarantee the rostering of a second person with safety critical competencies on all our trains, and our plans mean more guards, not fewer.

‘We urge the RMT to call off these unnecessary strikes which are hindering, not helping, progress.’

Northern, which now faces five more 24-hour strikes this month and next, has yet to make a further statement, but after the talks had failed on Wednesday, Acas said: ‘Following a second day of Acas talks, Arriva Northern Rail and RMT were unable to make any progress in resolving their dispute. There are no further meetings planned at the present time.’

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