Bank holiday rail strike threat in dispute over pay

UNION bosses have threatened to strike on the Royal Wedding bank holiday next year, unless Northern Rail start talks to break industrial deadlock.

Train routes across Yorkshire have been heavily affected after an estimated 1,000 conductors went on strike over the last two days following a row over bank holiday pay.

Although the walk out came to an end last night, the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said that unless Northern Rail relaxed its position not to award double pay for staff working extra bank holidays, more strikes could take place – with the extra holiday on April 29 for the Prince William and Kate Middleton wedding seen as a potential flashpoint.

Craig Johnston, a former Northern Rail conductor and member of the RMT executive, said: "If we accept Northern Rail's position then we will just have a similar situation next Christmas and with the royal wedding where we will not be getting any compensation for working these holidays.

"We will be wanting to find out early in the new year exactly what the company intends to do about future substitute bank holidays.

"Northern Rail has to accept that their staff are clearly disgruntled and upset about the stance that it has shown over this issue.

"We will not rule out further strikes although we would seek out a fresh mandate from our members – let us make that clear."

An agreement to cut the pay for bank holidays was agreed between RMT and Northern Rail several years ago, after conductors traded double pay for other benefits including increased salaries and extra annual leave.

But RMT say additional bank holidays – such as the ones this year on December 27 and December 28 – were not included at the time.

The strike meant many trains between Manchester, Liverpool, Preston, Leeds and Newcastle did not run, while routes between Carlisle, Sheffield and York were also affected.

Northern Rail said about 25 per cent of services were running to and from Hull and Bridlington in East Yorkshire and Cleethorpes in North East Lincolnshire.

A spokeswoman for the company said while it had put a revised timetable in place yesterday, it was able to run individual services above what were originally intended owing to the number of conductors who turned up to work.

Ian Bevan, managing director of Northern Rail, said: "We are very disappointed that the RMT went ahead with strike action when only 361 of 976 conductors voted for a strike.

"We have said all along that we will honour the existing agreements that we have with the trade union, and we are always willing to hold further talks."