The RMT union, which represents many guards on our network, is currently in dispute with Merseyrail in relation to on-board staffing arrangements on the new fleet, set to be introduced on the network in 2020.
This section is designed to inform you about the dispute, providing background information and practical advice.
Andy Heath, Managing Director of Merseyrail explains why strikes have returned to the Merseyrail network, despite meeting the demands of the RMT twice during the last 15 months of talks.
Why are strikes happening again?
Merseyrail and the RMT entered in to talks in April 2018 at the request of Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, following 16 days of strikes. The RMT confirmed to the High Court that this dispute was about retaining a second person on board, which Merseyrail committed to in August 2018. Despite this, the deal was rejected by the RMT National Executive Committee (NEC) in London and a new demand for a role in dispatch was made in June 2019 that the second person must have a role in dispatch.
Merseyrail again met these aspirations, through a joint workshop with the RMT to agree a role in dispatching the train from all underground stations.
The RMT NEC again rejected the deal because they want to dispatch the train at all stations on the network, at an additional cost that is upwards of £15million.
What is the dispute about?
The dispute is related to on-board staffing arrangements on the new trains, which will enter into service from 2020 and replace the existing forty year old fleet. These trains are designed so that the drivers, not guards, would be responsible for opening and closing the doors, which is already common across the UK with 70% of passenger journeys throughout the country being made on trains that have a driver only. It is also a safe method of operation, as stated by the independent safety regulator, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).
A new customer service role was proposed for a second safety-critical person following feedback from customers that this would provide them with a feeling of safety and security. The second person on board would be more visible throughout the train and better able to support passengers without the need to open and close doors every 3 minutes on the Merseyrail network.
Specifically, the RMT has always said this dispute is about the retention of a second safety-critical person on board the train, which Merseyrail has committed to. Additional demands including a role in dispatch have been met and the RMT’s latest demand would incur an additional cost that is upwards of £15million.
The new trains will have some of the most advanced and innovative safety features seen in the UK, and will be faster, more comfortable and more spacious.
When are the next strikes on Merseyrail?
UPDATE: The first three strikes on the Merseyrail network have been called off to allow further discussions to take place. A normal service will run on 24 August, 3 and 5 September.
The other strike dates the RMT union announced are:
- Monday 30 September
- Wednesday 2 October
- Friday 4 October
Merseyrail will run as much of a normal service as possible and timetables will be communicated in advance of each strike day.
What are you doing to resolve the dispute?
Over the last 15 months, Merseyrail’s Managing Director and directorate team have actively engaged in 18 days of talks with independent conciliation service, ACAS, in an attempt to bring about an end to the dispute. During this time, Merseyrail and the RMT have jointly established 2 agreements with the local RMT. The first met the original demand made by the RMT of retaining a second safety-critical person on all trains only to be rejected with an additional demand for a role in dispatch, which Merseyrail also met through a joint workshop. On both occasions, despite meeting the RMT’s aspirations, the RMT National Executive Committee in London rejected them.
Merseyrail are prepared to re-enter into talks with the RMT providing that there is clarity on what is being discussed, as demands have been met twice in jointly established deals only to be rejected with further demands made.
How many strikes have been held on Merseyrail?
There have been 16 strike days so far between March 2017 and March 2018. They were on 13 March, 8 April, 8, 10 & 23 July, 1, 3 & 4 September, 3 &5 October, 8 November, 22 December, 8, 10 & 12 January and 3 March. 8 April was Grand National day at Aintree and 23 July was the last day of The Open golf championship at Royal Birkdale. The two in October were held while Liverpool Lime Street station was undergoing a major upgrade.
A further 6 strike days are planned for 24 August, 3, 5 & 30 September, and 2 & 4 October.
What level of service will be provided on strike days?
Merseyrail has run a reliable train service every half an hour (as opposed to every 15 minutes) between 7am and 7pm, calling at selected stations only on most routes. There has been a short break in service in the middle of the day and all trains have run with six carriages.
Passengers are advised to plan their journey in advance.
How can you run trains on strike days without guards?
As part of contingency planning, managers have been trained to act as guards, and it is these managers that will work as guards on the strike days.
What will happen to guards when their jobs no longer exist?
Subject to successful negotiations with the unions, none of today’s guards or guards’ managers will be forced to leave Merseyrail’s employment. Merseyrail has pledged that any member of staff who is currently employed as a guard and wants to stay at Merseyrail, will be guaranteed permanent employment in an alternative position once the new trains are introduced.
Have drivers been striking?
No, but they have not crossed picket-lines on any strike day to date, so driver managers have been driving trains.
How much notice will you give passengers of a strike day?
We will announce strike days as soon as the RMT notifies us. At the very least, this will be fourteen days in advance.
Will Merseyrail gain financially from the new trains, coming into service in 2020?
Merseyrail will make no additional money from the new trains – it’s held financially neutral. Any extra revenue generated by more passengers and cost savings will be passed to Merseytravel to help pay for the new trains.
Will customers be entitled to additional compensation due to Industrial Action?
Our normal arrangements in terms of compensation, as set out in our Passenger Charter, will remain in place during the Industrial Action. You can view our Passenger Charter here or by picking up a copy of the information leaflet ‘Am I entitled to compensation or a refund’ at any staffed Merseyrail ticket office.
We will also be writing to monthly and annual season ticket holders regarding the arrangements for Industrial Action.
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Our response to the strikes and a message from Andy Heath