17 February 2017
RMT Press Office:
RMT ballot for industrial action opens today as company fails to give assurances on guards on Merseyrail.
RAIL UNION RMT confirmed today that a ballot for industrial action is underway after Merseyrail’s continued failure to provide cast iron assurances around the future of the safety critical role of the guard. Ballot papers to both Merseyrail drivers and guards will be sent out today with the ballot closing on the 28th February.
The union has launched a strong, high profile campaign across the franchise for a massive yes vote.
RMT General secretary Mick Cash said:
“The union’s position on Driver Only Operation is perfectly clear. We will not agree to any introduction of DOO and will fight to retain the safety critical role of the guard and to keep a guard on the train.
“RMT has asked Merseyrail to give the union assurances that any new trains will have a second safety critical crew member on board and that the guard will be retained on all services. We set out clear deadlines giving the company ample time to give those assurances but the company have flatly refused to consider a guarantee of a second safety critical person on the new trains”.
“This dispute, and the ballot for industrial action, were entirely preventable if the company had listened and to the unions deep-seated safety concerns, had taken them seriously and had put passenger safety before profit.
“Merseyrail are also completely ignoring the clear wishes of their own passengers, who overwhelmingly oppose the idea of Driver Only Operated trains on their trains. That pig-headed attitude has left us no choice but to kick off the balloting process today.”
John Tilley, RMT Regional Organiser, added:
"RMT has now been left with nowhere else to go but to ballot our members for industrial action in defence of the future operational safety of Merseyrail, and the retention of the 220 skilled guards’ posts.
“The more details that emerge of how Merseyrail intend to operate these new trains, the more we are alarmed and determined to retain the guard.
“Merseyrail confirmed to us last week that the plans, to comply with recommendation No1 of the official accident report into the fatal accident at James Street station, mean that on the new trains the driver will be required to monitor a set of CCTV screens in the cab, until the train has left the station.
That is completely at odds with the requirements of basic railway safety, that require the driver to look out of the front windscreen, watching the signals, and scanning the track for obstacles, trespassers or workers.
“As Cllr Liam Robinson, chair of Merseytravel recently admitted to us, this is all about money, and to that end we are in discussion with senior politicians, with a view to ending this reckless proposal to operate Merseyrail with only a driver on board locked up front in his cab.
We expect our members to vote heavily in favour of taking action, as that's what it may have to take to get people to listen"