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Merseyrail strikes called off after new agreement

A SERIES of strikes on Merseyrail has been suspended by the RMT, after what the union described as a ‘breakthrough’ offer from management.

The union said ‘the company tabled an offer that guarantees both a guard on the train and the safety-critical role of that guard in the despatch process’.

The dispute has been one of several involving the RMT over the future of on-train staffing, and the Merseyrail negotiations have come close to being resolved before.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Today’s breakthrough in the long-running Merseyrail guards’ dispute has been achieved after nearly three years of hard political, industrial and public campaigning and I want to pay tribute to RMT members who have been prepared to put themselves on the line at significant personal cost to defend safety and accessibility on the railway. The progress that has been achieved has been extraordinary.  We have pushed back from the threat of wholesale Driver Only Operation across Merseyrail to not only a guarantee of a guard on every train but a guarantee that that guard will retain a safety-critical role in the despatch process. That is a significant development.’

However, he also warned that ‘there is some further work to do now around the fine detail but the union remains committed, as we have been right from the start, to getting a final deal’.

The strikes had been called on nine consecutive Saturdays, starting on 2 November.

Merseyrail managing director Andy Heath has welcomed the union¹s acceptance.

He said: ‘At no time in our many days of negotiations with the RMT did we ever lose sight of the fact that the new Merseyrail trains will be one of the best in the network.

‘I am pleased that after consideration the RMT’s National Executive Committee have endorsed the latest proposal in principal and at the same time have given our customers, shoppers and traders the benefit of the lead up to Christmas being strike free.

‘We will now progress with the next phase of discussions to finalise an agreement so that the RMT can consult with its guard members before proceeding towards implementation.’

Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram said: ‘Today’s announcement is welcome news and I’d like to express my sincere thanks to my team, who have worked so hard for so long in negotiations to achieve this breakthrough.

‘I intervened to scrap proposals for driver-only operation and guarantee a guard, with a safety critical role, on board every new train.These latest proposals that have come from RMT local negotiators and been approved for the first time by the RMT National Executive Committee, reflect that commitment by providing a role in dispatch and legally-binding job security beyond the end of the current franchise.

‘We have been close to a deal before, but I am hopeful that today’s breakthrough means that we can now look forward to the arrival from 2020 of our new, state-of-the-art trains which will be publicly owned by local people and are being built to meet their needs and the needs of our city region.’

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