Metro pressure group calls for resolution to ongoing dispute between Nexus and RMT Union

Metro passengers have urged service operator Nexus and RMT Union members to bring an end to weeks of industrial action which have been affecting services across the network.

Monday, 30th December 2019, 2:50 am
Industrial action has been in force on the Tyne and Wear Metro network since Sunday, December 1.

Pressure group Sort Out The Metro, which has 5,000 members on Facebook, published on open letteron Boxing Day calling for an ongoing dispute between the two parties to be resolved.

On Sunday, December 1, an overtime ban and rest day working ban were introduced for train crews working on the Tyne and Wear Metro network.

This means that staff did not work any additional paid voluntary shifts, which are sometimes required to fulfill the service.

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The ongoing action has led to delays and disruption for passengers.

What is the dispute about?

RMT said its industrial action was in response to Nexus “ignoring pay and staffing issues”, which include drivers leaving to other train operators and working conditions which it says are “way behind the industry standard”.

A two-day strike was held over Friday, December 20 and Saturday, December 21

Last month, Nexus confirmed it was asking for some changes to working practices in line with a system-wide transformation, and in turn made an “unprecedented” pay offer of a 15% increase in salary over two years, on top of the annual cost of living rise.

The open letter, signed by Kevin Dickinson on behalf of the group, asks both the RMT and Nexus to “agree to a timetable of talks” to resolve the dispute, and to enter in to them with “open minds and without pre conditions”.

It also said that the row could be resolved “if both sides show a willingness to discuss and are open to compromises, which will be necessary”.

Sort Out The Metro’s open letter added: “The Metro service is key to the economy of the North East and the current dispute is causing considerable disruption to passengers trying to get to and from work.”

Passengers have faced disruption on the network.

The letter also states that the group, which was formed in 2015, carried out a survey questioning 433 Metro passengers.

Of this number, the results say 46% of passengers were more than 30 minutes late for work or an important appointment during the first week of action.

What has RMT said?

Micky Thompson, Regional Organiser North East RMT, said the union is trying to make progress in regards to the two parties meeting again – and that he hopes the pressure group will see the “bigger picture” surrounding the dispute.

RMT say that Nexus’ pay and working conditions are “way behind” the industry standard, with Mr Thompson citing the company’s want for drivers to increase their flexibility, the imbalance in drivers’ pay and driver retention as some of the issues at the heart of the dispute.

The union has been in dialogue with Nexus throughout the festive period, including on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, to try and work towards a resolution, he added.

Crews have been left with “no option” but to put on another 48-hour strike next month – which they hope will bring the employer back to the negotiating table

RMT is willing to meet with Nexus “at any time” – but Mr Thompson said planned strike action will not be lifted unless “significant” progress is made in any negotiations.

He added: “It will be these train drivers working these revised terms and conditions, not the general public. If they are going to do that, they want recompense accordingly.”

What has Nexus said?

Following the letter’s publication on Boxing Day, Metro Services Director Chris Carson apologised for the disruption caused to customers, and reiterated that the “door remains open” for further talks with RMT.

He said in a statement: “I’m sorry for the massive disruption this RMT industrial action is having on our customers. Our door remains open for talks with the union.

“We need the threat of strikes on January 6 and 7 to be lifted, along with the rolling ban on voluntary overtime and rest day working, so that people who rely on the Metro for work and education can plan their lives with certainty again.

“Nexus has always been willing to hold further talks, with or without the assistance of ACAS. However, talks can only be held when both parties are in the room.”