30 April 2014
RMT Press Office
RAIL UNION RMT today confirmed that it is considering plans to escalate industrial action on Northern Rail after senior management chose to wreck peace talks aimed at resolving a long-running dispute over re-grading of maintenance drivers at two key depots in Newcastle and Leeds.
A week of strike action due to commence on the 10th April was suspended by the union in good faith following assurances from Northern management that they would enter serious and meaningful negotiations aimed at reaching a solution. However, once the union had officially “suspended” the action to allow those talks to happen the management upped the ante and demanded that all action be “cancelled”, invalidating the ballot mandate and throwing down a gauntlet laced with hostility and aggression that wrecked the talks and poisoned the atmosphere – scuppering any chance of reaching agreement.
As a result, RMT is confirming that the dispute remains well and truly on and is considering an escalation of the Northern Rail industrial action.
The core issue at the heart of the dispute , involving RMT Northern Rail maintenance driver members at Heaton (Newcastle) and Neville Hill (Leeds) Traincare Depots, is over a re-grading exercise which has failed to recognise the complex and demanding role of this key group of staff and which has ignored the skills and hard work that they bring to the company.
RMT Acting General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“It is outrageous that after RMT suspended the Northern Rail strike action, due to start on the 10th of April, in good faith, that the management side then upped the ante and introduced wholly unreasonable pre-conditions that have wrecked the prospect of reaching a settlement.
“Staff across Northern Rail are aware of the aggressive and hostile attitude taken by the company to the maintenance drivers at Leeds and Newcastle and the union is looking closely at its strategy and specifically means of escalating the action.
“RMT firmly believes that the company has been disingenuous in their approach to this re-grading process by failing to recognise the multi-skills and the hard work that this group of maintenance depot drivers bring to the Northern Rail operation. Their most recent actions in scuppering the talks have dragged us close to the edge of a complete and fundamental breakdown in industrial relations.
“RMT has submitted evidence which makes it clear that the maintenance drivers job is complex and demanding and in fact is becoming more so due to the diverse nature of the work which has been led by changes in the industry. The time has come for the company to stop prevaricating and to acknowledge that Maintenance Depot Drivers should be re-graded accordingly in recognition of their role and responsibilities.
“The ball is now firmly in Northern Rail’s court and it is down to them to take the appropriate action to get the talks process back on track.”
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Tagged with: northern rail, heaton, neville hill, strike action
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