Strikes set for rest of year.
Byline: DAVE ROBSON email@example.com @Daverobson_gaz
IF you're thinking of using Northern trains to go on Saturday Christmas shopping trips, you may have to think again.
In an ongoing dispute about the role of guards on Arriva Rail North - Northern - trains, the RMT union has announced a raft of new strike dates to follow Saturday's walkout.
On every Saturday for the rest of 2018, RMT conductors and instructors have been instructed to walk out. And that could severely disrupt Northern services during the busiest shopping time of the year.
The RMT confirmed it will tell its Northern members not to book on for duty on November 10, 17, 24 and December 1, 8 and 15, 22 and 29.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: "RMT continues to make every effort to get serious and meaningful talks going with Northern but the company are not interested and would prefer to continue to bury their heads in the sand regardless of the impact on the travelling public.
"German-owned Northern Rail want to run nearly half a million trains a year without a safety critical guard on board in a move that would wreck both safety and access to services and they should listen to their front-line staff and pull back from that plan immediately.
"RMT has secured agreements on other English franchises that enshrine the guard guarantee. Similar agreements have also been reached in Wales and Scotland. Arriva Rail North need to do the right thing and come to an agreement that secures a guard on their trains too.
"We thank the public for their support and understanding throughout this dispute over rail safety and access and the union remains ready for genuine and serious talks."
Northern MD David Brown said: "In a recent letter to the RMT General Secretary, I called on the union to reconvene talks. RMT will need to demonstrate that they are serious about making progress by suspending industrial action and agreeing to discuss the options that they themselves put forward during the first ACAS talks in September. To date, we have not received a response to this proposal.
"During those talks, the RMT changed its mind about what it would discuss between the first and second meetings, making it impossible to progress. We have offered to explore all options, including those RMT has agreed with other train operators, but they refuse to discuss these with Northern. I am still waiting for a response to my call to them asking them to get back round table and find a solution to their dispute.
"Instead, they have responded by cynically targeting the weekends in November and December to hit Christmas markets and important seasonal events. Not only will this include the 19th consecutive Saturday of RMT strike action but also 42nd day of strike action. RMT's strikes are causing more and more unnecessary difficulty and inconvenience for our customers and significant loss of earnings for their members.
"Our offer to resume ACAS talks remains open and we will meet the union anytime, anywhere. We challenge the union to suspend their action and come back to the table."