Merseyrail staff will walk out on THREE more dates in the same week in January as the bitter dispute over train guards continues.
Rail union the RMT announced the strikes as it fights to retain guards on Merseyrail train services from 2020.
Our sister site the ECHO reports that Merseyrail says guards will not be needed on its £460m new fleet of trains, which is set to come into service from 2020, but the RMT says that guards are vital for passenger safety.
RMT members will be striking on:
Monday, January 8
Wednesday, January 10
Friday, January 12
The RMT will also be striking on Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Isle of Wight Island Line services on those three days.
And it will be striking on Southern Rail on January 8.
The RMT’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces and we are left with no option but to confirm a further phase of industrial action in the New Year.
“No one should be in any doubt, these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.”
Mr Cash said the union had been able to negotiate agreements in Scotland and Wales to protect guards’ roles, but were unable to do the same in England.
He added: “RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory Government that is interfering in these disputes and that their influence is a factor in preventing the union from reaching negotiated settlements.
“With fare increases kicking in on the January 2 it is outrageous that Theresa May and Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip-off the British passenger with eye-watering fare increases to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.
“RMT is demanding today that the blockade on talks is lifted in these separate disputes to allow us to negotiate freely with the companies and give us the opportunity to pursue the objective of a guard guarantee that puts British passenger safety before the rank exploitation of our rail network by fare-jacking private companies who are laughing all the way to the bank.
“If it’s good enough for Wales and Scotland to put safety first then it’s good enough for the rest of the UK.”
Merseyrail has always insisted that its new trains, which will include CCTV and other specially-designed safety features, will operate safely without guards. It has vowed that there will be no compulsory redundancies among its workforce.
Merseyrail’s newly-appointed managing director, Andy Heath, said the company was “disappointed” at the announcement of three more strike days.
Mr Heath accused the RMT of being “intransigent” and said the company would not back down over its plans for driver-only operation (DOO), which he said was safe for passengers and staff.
He said: “The decision to have these new trains was taken by the Combined Authority in December 2016. Lots of thought went into these trains and their operation.
“One thing we need to make clear is that the Merseyrail network is unique.
“It’s a small network, as opposed to some of the others where DOO is proposed. There are only two or three minutes between each station, and also our stations are staffed from beginning to end of service.
“This is the right decision for the city region, it’s the right decision for this network and it’s the right decision for the customer in terms of the absolutely fantastic state-of-the-art trains.
“All the guards are guaranteed jobs and continued employment.
“Nobody will be losing their job. £470m worth of trains are coming to the network. This is a really good news story for the city region.”