There have been some significant developments since we last covered the mainline railway Driver Only Operation disputes.
At Greater Anglia, RMT says the employer has made an “improved offer” good enough to be put to its members in a referendum, so it has suspended strike action there.
At South Western Railway, RMT has also suspended its strikes on Thursday and Saturday because it says its talks with the employer at ACAS are making “adequate progress” and it believes an acceptable settlement can be reached.
At Merseyrail the discussions at ACAS remain ongoing, with nothing whatsoever making its way into the news about progress. Whilst it is unwise to speculate too much, it would appear that a settlement is likely to arise from those discussions in due course.
At Northern the union remains in dispute over DOO, with strikes taking place on 19, 21, 23 June. Since the introduction of new timetables on 20 May, the company has been struggling to run all its services, with numbers of cancellations shockingly high. There has been considerable media and political pressure on the company, on Southern (where the new timetables are a similar mess) and on Chris Grayling and the Department for Transport.
Some people at RMT believe that Grayling was on the brink of being forced to resign, and Arriva Rail North was on the verge of defaulting on the Northern franchise.
However, the company approached drivers’ union ASLEF, cap in hand, asking to be bailed out with an agreement for drivers to work overtime on Rest Days. This included a £1000 payment for every driver just for making the agreement, with no obligation on any individual to actually agree to work any overtime. The agreement also included some promises for “meaningful talks” on a “new deal” for its drivers, and promises for further payments when certain conditions have been met that will allow the company to move forward with some of its plans for modernising rolling stock.
It is difficult to see why ASLEF chose to settle for so little when they had the company and government over a barrel in this way.
There is also a concern that this may be a step down the road of that union agreeing to work trains under DOO arrangements.
One of the conditions set out for the receipt of further payment is the agreement of a training plan for drivers for the company’s new and refurbished trains, which will be equipped with the necessary controls to operate that way.