Train strikes on Northern enter second year as guards ordered out again

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A dispute over roles of train guards that has seen services curtailed across Yorkshire has entered its second year, with the announcement of two more walkouts by staff.

The Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has instructed its members not to report for work on either Monday, March 26 or Thursday 29th.

The RMT objects to industry proposals to transfer responsibility for opening and closing train doors from guards to drivers, which it says is a “safety issue”.

It has been calling 24-hour strikes at irregular intervals since March 13 last year – most recently last Saturday. But although the union has claimed “solid support” from its members, around half of Northern’s services have continued to run without them.

The company has trained other staff to do the guards’ jobs and a company source has told The Yorkshire Post that more are coming onstream.

The first strikes saw most routes shutting down at around 5pm but many services during more recent walkouts have continued to run until mid-evening.

The dispute has also turned increasingly bitter within the union’s own ranks, with guards on South Western Railway who chose not to obey similar strike calls complaining of bullying by colleagues who walked out.

One guard has reportedly been signed off with stress caused by disagreements over the strikes. Two other staff are said to have been suspended or are under investigation following the bullying allegations on South Western.

Last night, Northern accused the union of a “nationally co-ordinated campaign” over driver-controlled operation, which the Government wants to see phased in on new trains. It said one in five of its guards had taken up their posts since the dispute started, and had never been given the chance to vote on the issue.

Richard Allan, the company’s deputy managing director said the RMT had rejected its call for a new ballot and must now “allow its local representatives to engage in meaningful discussions” about their roles.

The company ruled out redundancies at the start of the dispute. Mr Allan said: “We are still prepared to offer unprecedented guarantees of jobs and pay reviews until the end of our franchise in 2025, with the Government guaranteeing jobs beyond that if RMT ends strike action.”

The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said efforts to reach a negotiated settlement had been “kicked back in our faces”.