Our Ref: BR2/0146


25th October 2019

Dear Colleague,


As you are aware, we have been in dispute with Arriva Rail North for a considerable amount of time and you and your colleagues have shown tremendous support and solidarity during this long running and often bitter dispute. Whilst the majority of you and your colleagues have been employed from the start of the dispute, a large number of new employees have recently joined the company. Your Employee Council and Lead Officer have met with the National Executive Committee and me to discuss the best way forward in this dispute. Whilst talks are still on-going and major progress has been made, it has been a long period of time since the dispute started. Therefore, it was agreed that a summary of events should be provided to members to allow you and your colleagues to have a better understanding of how far we have come and to better inform new members.

Many of you will be aware that since Arrival Rail North took over the franchise in April 2016, the union was advised that the company intended to introduce Driver Controlled Operation with the introduction of their new rolling stock. The company stated that on at least 50% of current train services within the franchise would see DCO implemented. At a meeting with the Managing Director he informed us that the company’s view of DCO was that the Driver would have sole responsibility for all operational requirements, including full door control upon the introduction of the new procured rolling stock.

In February 2017, a ballot was conducted in which members voted massively in favour of both strike action and action short of a strike. With members taking strike action as early as March 2017, which was solidly supported. Not long after our industrial action, several meetings took place. Whilst the company failed to provide any assurances and continued to make the same remarks that they are obligated by the DfT and their franchise agreement to implement a minimum of 50% DCO across their network. The company also stated that they could run 99% of services DCO, with talks collapsing soon after and the NEC clarifying that any deal would need to be in line with Union Policy.

Late November 2018, talks took place with the company again and ARN asked for the union to suspend the industrial action. We made it clear that in order for this to happen the union would need the following three guarantees from the company:-

1. There is an absolute 100% guarantee that no trains will run without the second member of staff on board.
2. That the second member of staff will be clearly designated as safety critical to the running of all services.
3. That the second member of staff will retain the full suite of safety and operational competencies of the guard, including a direct role at the platform/train interface and train despatch.

Unfortunately, the company continued to play cynical games and politics with our members’ future. The company failed to respond to our letter and the union pressed the company on these points during brief negotiations in December 2018. ARN outright refused to acknowledge or discuss the points raised and prevaricated on the additional funding they have received from the DfT.

The company finally gave guarantees on points 1 and 2 in February 2019 and were willing to talk via ACAS about point 3. It was also confirmed that the DfT and Transport for North were prepared to provide additional funding to allow point 3 to be achieved. This allowed talks to start in March 2019 via ACAS at the steering group level, where the Arriva Rail North Managing Director (David Brown) and fellow directors attended. The union was represented by the General Secretary (Mick Cash), Lead Officer (Micky Thompson) and National Executive Committee member (Steve Nott). These discussions also ran parallel with the working party discussions. We recognise that since this point members have felt they haven’t had a lot by way of updates, this is down to the nature of the talks and difficulties in the sensitivities with the parties involved including of course the DFT. The outcome of these discussions meant that in May 2019, the company and your union agreed on operational modes, with this being confirmed by an agreement being made in principle in June. It was agreed that the operational modes of Conventional Working (as it is now) and Intermediate Working (As it is on Arriva Cross Country and in line with union policy) could be explored. The company needed to speak with the DfT to confirm they were happy with the outcome of our discussions. Both the union and company continued to meet at the working group level to establish whether the intermediate method of working would work on most routes.

Arriva Rail North, confirmed in September 2019 that the intermediate mode works on most routes. With this proposed intermediate mode of operating being workable to both the union and the company. However, the company stated that there are costs involved to modernise the legacy fleet (old units). Furthermore, in order to resolve this dispute the company wished to discuss the modernising of the conductor role, as outlined in the ACAS document found Here. These talks have spanned over 50 meetings, with your representatives and negotiators, clearly and always, negotiating from instruction by the NEC and in line with union policy to best achieve the aims of you and your colleagues. As you know, discussions recently took place at the unions head office and it was agreed that, whilst talks were moving in the right direction, further talks would likely take some time to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Therefore, the National Executive Committee has considered the views of your elected Employee Council Representatives and Lead Officer and believes that it is now imperative we seek the views of you and your colleagues via a referendum. The question on the voting paper will be asking whether you wish to vote ‘yes’ for talks to continue, as substantial progress has been made and it is the view of everyone involved that further talks would see a final deal reached allowing the union to put a proposals to in a further referendum for you all to vote on. The NEC has also stated that should you and your colleagues vote to carry on talks then all future discussions will continue to take place in line with union policy, for example, meeting our aspirations of a 35hour – 4 day week. There is of course the option to vote ‘no’ for the talks to stop and for strike action to be taken. However, it should be noted that should members vote no, it would mean that the NEC would almost immediately call further strike action dates. The Lead Officer, Employee Council Representatives and NEC recommend that members Vote ‘Yes’ to continue the talks and continue with the substantial progress made. Of course when any final proposal is reached it will be sent out to you and your colleagues to have the final say.

In the coming weeks your representatives will be visiting the depots across the network, ahead of the referendum. The reps will be seeking your views and this will give you an opportunity to share your thoughts or ask any questions you have relating to the dispute. I would encourage all members to talk with your colleagues and representatives. The union aims to start the referendum on Tuesday 12th November 2019 and will close on Tuesday 26th November 2019, with reps attending depots before and during the first week of the referendum. This will also give you time to read over these documents and to speak with your reps.

I would like to thank you all for your continued support that you have shown throughout this dispute. The strength and solidarity you have all shown is phenomenal and you quite rightly deserve to be congratulated not only by the RMT but by the Trade Union movement as a whole.

I of course will keep you fully updated on any further developments when they arise.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary