Our Ref: BR2/0146

9th April 2020

Dear Colleague,


Firstly, I would like to thank you all for your hard work and ensuring that vital rail services continue to run to support our key workers around the country. I also extend my thoughts to you, your colleagues and your loved ones during this difficult time and hope that you are all keeping safe and well.

I am writing further to my previous correspondence where I advised you of the referendum result and that you and your colleagues voted overwhelmingly for talks with the company to continue and where I advised on the situation regarding the recent re-franchising of Arriva Rail North. As you are aware, the Government announced that on the 1st March 2020 Arriva Rail North will cease operating and will be taken over by the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort (OLR). This process has now been completed and Arriva Rail North has been renationalised to a publicly owned Train Operating Company, trading under the name of Northern Trains Ltd.

Following the referendum result, our representatives entered into discussions on the mitigation of Driver Controlled Operation (DCO) and the introduction and feasibility of incorporating Sunday into the working week. The working group, under the auspices of the conciliation service ACAS, set out a structured programme of meetings and themes. It was agreed that both the employee council and the Company’s negotiators would work through these themes and issues providing regular appraisal and updates when necessary.

The agreement was for the core themes to be split into four groups, these were, Customer Experience, Retailing, Performance and Operational Stability, with at least three members of the employee council on each and with the full employee council to discuss the final issue of Operational Stability. To date, discussions have been concluded on the Customer Experience and Performance themes, with retailing discussions to be concluded and for talks on Operational Stability to commence soon after.

During these discussions the lead officer has sought clarity on when the company expects the process to be completed. The company’s aspirations are for these discussions, which commenced in January, to be completed after six months. However, with Arriva losing the franchise and the Train Operating Company now being run by Northern Trains Ltd, and due to the current situation the timescales may change. As you will recall the union has asked if the OLR will continue to honour our trade dispute. Northern Trains Ltd responded that they were happy with the progress that has taken place so far and could see no reason as to why the planned discussions (the ACAS working group) should cease. The OLR stated that all issues would be assessed during the 100-day review and that the union, as a relevant stake holder, would be continued to be kept updated.

The National Executive Committee has considered this matter and has acknowledged the effort our employee council and lead officer has put into these discussions. I have been instructed to ascertain whether there is further information relating to the future shape of the franchise and upcoming plans. I will continue to keep the National Executive Committee fully advised of the situation and will place further reports for consideration once these discussions have taken place.

Whilst talks have continued and were progressing up until early march, unfortunately, as you are all too aware, the country is experiencing an unprecedented global catastrophe, in the form of Covid-19 (Coronavirus). This has meant that our representatives involved have not had the opportunity to agree any proposals and the union has no further information to share with you and your colleagues at this stage. The current global pandemic has also meant that talks have now ceased, with the company, our representatives and lead officer focusing their time on mitigating the effects of the crisis to our members.

The NEC has considered this matter and has acknowledged the work our representatives and lead officer has put into these discussions up until now. Therefore, noting that negotiations have been halted, as all parties involved are rightfully focusing on covid-19, I have been instructed to write to Northern Trains Ltd and ACAS requesting that talks resume as reasonable practicable. I will be asking the company and ACAS to explore all options available to allow these talks to start as soon as the current situation stabilizes.

I once again thank you all for your hard work and your efforts in serving on the front line, ensuring our vital health and key workers get to work. I again extend my thoughts to you and your colleagues during this unprecedented time and hope that you and your families keep safe.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary