Northern rail staff to be balloted for industrial action over role of guards

Northern operates services across parts of Derbyshire
Northern operates services across parts of Derbyshire

Northern rail conductors are set to be balloted over possible industrial action.

Rail union RMT is beginning immediate preparations for the ballot of its members, claiming Arriva Rail North has failed to provide assurances over the future role of guards.

The decision follows a meeting between the union and the company, which operates the Northern franchise.

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said the union’s position on driver-only operation - where drivers are responsible for operating carriage doors - was clear, and that it would "fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train".

“We asked Arriva Rail North whether they were prepared to guarantee a second person on all passenger services operated by the company and whether that second person would retain full operational responsibility, for train despatch, Platform Train Interface and current rule book requirements for dealing with contingency arrangements, such as evacuation and protection of the train," he said.

“The response from the company was ‘we are not in a position to offer either of these guarantees at this present time’. This has been particularly disappointing as Arriva North have reneged on their previous position when they stated they ‘were prepared to offer guarantees around a second person on board trains in addition to the driver’.

“This dispute, and the ballot for industrial action, were entirely preventable if the company had listened to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit.

"The union remains available for talks.”

The role of conductors has been the subject of a long-running dispute between the RMT and Southern Railway, prompting a series of strikes.

Northern services operate between Manchester and Buxton, as well as serving stations through the Hope Valley and between Chesterfield and Nottingham.

A company spokesman said: "We are in the early stages of developing our modernisation plans to bring customers a better railway, so we believe the RMT is extremely premature in calling a ballot for strikes.

"During our discussions this week we offered commitments to consult fully with our people, customers and key stakeholders. We want to protect jobs and pay as we work together to provide safe, secure and accessible services for our customers.

"We want to continue talking with the RMT."