NEW talks arranged in yet another attempt to end the train-staffing dispute on Northern have broken up in disarray. Hopes rose last week that a settlement could be in sight when the RMT offered to cancel its strike on 1 December if Northern agreed to three key conditions.
Northern had said the offer had come too late for trains to run normally on the 1st, but that it would be to able to restore the timetable on 8 December.
However, the prospects of the strikes ending soon appear slim once again, after the RMT said it had been left ‘angry, frustrated and determined to fight on in the interests of passenger safety’ when talks at ACAS failed to make any progress.
Northern said it had attended the talks with an ‘open mind’, but the union accused the company of having ‘no will’ to deal with the three points which have been raised about a second crew member. The RMT is calling for ‘an absolute guarantee of that member of staff being on board, that they will be safety critical, with the full suite of competencies, including despatch’.
Both the Department for Transport and Transport for the North said last week that they support the presence of a second crew member on Northern in principle, and that seemed to give the peace talks a fresh chance.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘RMT’s negotiating team arrived at the talks only to find that they were shunted into a side room while the company played for time.They even issued a bulletin to staff making it clear that the ACAS talks were nothing but a stunt on their part to buy a bit of time and try and hoodwink the union into suspending action.
‘Even after we eventually got in the room it was clear that they were either unwilling or unable to address the union’s position on the three key points we have set out and the fundamental issues at the heart of the dispute.
‘Frankly, it defies belief that despite the spin from the Government last week the very basic issue of a funding package to underpin a second person on Northern trains has been booted into the long grass. That is a disgrace.
‘RMT is sick of being treated with contempt and taken for a ride by those at the controls of the basket-case Northern Rail franchise and their paymasters in Government. Their cynical actions have collapsed the talks process and the programme of strike action remains on and the blame for that lies fair and square with the company.’
Northern’s deputy managing director Richard Allan said: ‘Northern went in to the meeting with an open mind and made it clear we wish to continue discussions and all options will be considered that involve the deployment of two members of staff on Northern services.
‘Any customer who needs help with access, personal security, information, ticketing and so on will have a member of staff, in addition to the driver, on-board trains to help them.
‘On behalf of customers and stakeholders, and in the spirit of working together, Northern would welcome RMT postponing its planned industrial action. We look forward to further talks at ACAS.’