On Tuesday afternoon rail union RMT announced a new wave of six one-day walkouts on the Merseyrail network starting on Saturday, August 24. Tony McDonough reports
Merseyrail’s managing director Andy Heath says the RMT union is being “completely unreasonable’ in organising new strikes on the Merseyside rail network.
Rail union RMT confirmed on Tuesday afternoon announced a new wave of six one-day walkouts starting on Saturday, August 24, and stretching into September and October with the union unhappy that drivers, not guards, will be responsible for opening and closing doors on the new trains.
On Tuesday evening Liverpool Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram accused the union of “moving the goalposts” and now Andy Heath has joined in the condemnation of the re-igniting of the long-running and bitter dispute.
Merseyrail claims this is the second time an agreed position had been reached via the conciliation service at ACAS, which met the union’s demands – only for it to be rejected by the London-based national executive committee.
Mr Heath said: “I have personally been at every one of the 18 ACAS meetings and my whole team has given their full commitment when reaching the March and July 2019 agreements.
“The RMT demanded a second safety critical person on our new fleet of trains and as a result of the ACAS discussions they secured this, subject to funding. However, towards the end of the discussions, the RMT was just making increasingly unreasonable and unrealistic demands and going backwards on key elements of the deal that they had previously agreed to.
“This was always a dispute about the RMT wishing to retain a guaranteed second safety-critical person on all new Merseyrail trains. We delivered this and this is still not good enough for the RMT.
“The RMT – twice in the space of a couple of months – made new ultimatums which are inconsistent with their original demands. I am now struggling to comprehend what this dispute is really all about. I have never seen the likes of this in over 30 years of working in the rail industry.
“This announcement will just create more unnecessary and avoidable inconvenience for our passengers, the public and local businesses, especially when, in our final proposal, we provided the RMT with what they were asking for.”
“We will do everything we can to deliver as much of a service as possible for our passengers during the strikes. There is no need for these strikes to be called and the RMT is being completely unreasonable.”