What were the reasons behind the 24 hour RMT strike over guards on the Merseyrail network?
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Saturday (3rd March 2018) saw another one day strike by RMT on both the Merseyrail and Northern Rail train networks, both strikes are over the issue of guards and public safety.
Pictured above was the protest outside Liverpool Lime Street train station, Liverpool on a cold and snowy morning.
Out talking to the public yesterday in both Liverpool and Southport, I was told by a number of people who instead of taking the Merseyrail train journeys they would normally, they were instead taking buses.
One member of the public in Liverpool told me that she supported the strike action as she did not want to see the removal of the guards from the trains. Below is a video produced by the RMT union to explain the reasons why they want to keep a guard on the train.
The Merseyrail strike is connected to a political decision made by councillors on the Merseytravel Committee (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority) in a private meeting and Mayor Joe Anderson and councillors on the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority also in a private meeting both in December 2016 to order new trains to replace the existing train fleet on the Merseyrail network. There was lobbying before this decision was made on this issue against this course of action by the RMT union.
At present the Merseyrail trains are crewed by two people (a driver and guard), whereas the plan for the new trains was to make them crewed only by a driver.
Before the contract was awarded to Stadler Bussnang AG to build the new trains, the second placed contractor Bombardier Transportation Limited sued Merseytravel alleging irregularities in the procurement process. The Particulars of Claim in that matter were published on this blog last year. As a result of the lawsuit, signing the contract for new trains with Stadler Bussnang AG happened later than expected in 2017.
Although the legal case is between Bombardier Transportation UK Limited and Merseytravel in the Technology and Construction Court (part of the High Courts of Justice), the winning contractor (Stadler Bussnang AG represented by Norton Rose Fulbright LLP) was recently ordered to pay £35,000 of Bombardier’s legal costs (£37,710 was requested) due to behaviour described by The Honorable Mr Justice Coulson as “unreasonable”.
Under the terms of the franchise agreement between Merseytravel and Merseyrail (clause 5.4), payments are made from Merseytravel under a Force Majeure clause to replace any lost profits as a result of strike action.
This leaves little financial incentive on Merseyrail to resolve the industrial dispute with RMT.
I have emailed the following question that hopefully I will ask at Friday afternoon’s public meeting (9th March 2018) of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority:
“Last Saturday was another strike by Merseyrail workers in the long running trade union dispute, could you please tell me how much are the total payments from Merseytravel/LCRCA (whether estimated or actual) connected to the “Consolidated Concession Agreement relating to the services for the carriage of passengers by railway to be provided by Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Limited“ contract for lost profits on strike days from when this dispute began in December 2016 to the present?”
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