Arriva Rail North calls for talks to try and head off guards' strikes

Northern is trying to avert strikes three days of strikes
Northern is trying to avert strikes three days of strikes
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A rail company embroiled in a bitter dispute over the role of guards on trains has called for fresh talks in a bid to avert a new wave of strikes.

Arriva Rail North, which operates Northern, said it has formally invited the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) to meet under the chairmanship of the conciliation service Acas.

The operator also urged the union to call off three days of planned strike action on August 25 and September 1 and 8.

The union said it will review the strikes depending on how talks progress but is not prepared to call off the planned action.

David Brown, managing director of Arriva Rail North, said: "As part of this modernisation, we want to work with our train crews to agree how we can operate more flexibly and deliver services that better meet the changing needs of our customers.

"This is why we have been holding talks with RMT in the hope of ultimately delivering for our customers through new, modern working arrangements.

"I have also called on them to suspend their planned industrial action to allow these talks to take place and not disrupt our customers over three busy weekends.

"There are many events planned for the bank holiday and I hope that the union will consider the many families making plans for the last weekend of the summer holidays."

Arriva said that if the strike action goes ahead, passengers should plan ahead and consider alternative travel options as there is likely to be a "significantly reduced" service.

RMT leader Mick Cash said in a message to members that talks should go ahead, adding that the company had been "playing for time" in previous meetings.

He added: "These talks will need to be meaningful and meet our aspirations and objectives to retain a safety critical guard on every train.

"The National Executive Committee is prepared to review their decision on strike action depending on how the talks progress but are not prepared to call off the current action. After all, Northern make these promises of 'meaningful' discussions and then treat your negotiators with contempt.

"The talking we want, but we also demand concrete, acceptable proposals, not empty words."