RMT suspends Merseyrail strike action after ‘positive’ talks

After a meeting with Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, officials from the RMT union agreed to suspend the first three of six planned one-day walkouts. Tony McDonough reports

Merseyrail
The RMT has put the new wave of one-day strikes on hold. Picture by Tony McDonough

 

There has been a breakthrough in talks to avert a new wave of one-day strikes on the Merseyrail network.

After a meeting with Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, officials from the RMT union agreed to suspend the first three of six planned one-day walkouts would now be put on hold to allow for further negotiations.

The RMT has announced the strikes at the end of July in a dispute over the role of train guards on Merseyrail’s new £450m train fleet which is due to come into operation in 2020, specifically in relation to who would be responsible for opening and closing doors.

It followed initial strike action in 2018 when RMT members staged a series of walkouts over plans to scrap the role of the guard on the new trains. RMT, Merseyrail and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority agreed to talks via the conciliation service ACAS where an apparent agreement was reached.

But in recent weeks the RMT has again hardened its stance over the role of the guards, prompting Mr Rotheram to accuse the union of “moving the goalposts” in reigniting the bitter dispute.

The union agreed to suspend action scheduled for Saturday, August 24, and September 3 and 5. However, three more one-day walkouts planned for later in September and into October could still go ahead if talks break down.

Mr Rotheram said: “As a result of constructive talks between myself, Cllr Liam Robinson, RMT general secretary Mick Cash and local RMT reps, I am pleased that a potential way forward has been found.

“I welcome the union’s decision to call off the strike action. This is good news for passengers and underlines that significant progress is being made towards reaching a final resolution to this long-running dispute.”

In its own statement the RMT also described the meeting as “positive”, adding that “fresh proposals have been made which represent significant progress in regards to addressing RMT’s concerns.”

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