Yorkshire train chaos warning as Northern Rail staff vote for strike action

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Workers on Northern Rail, which runs services across the North West, North East and Yorkshire, have voted to go on strike in a row over jobs and safety.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union backed walkouts by 80% and other forms of industrial action by 90%.

The union said it is in dispute over a series of issues, including the removal of permanent posts and the creation of zero-hour jobs via a contract with a security company, cuts to booking offices and attacks on the role and responsibility of train guards.

The union said Northern Rail had also given no commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies beyond the end of its current franchise in February 2016.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has made every effort to win assurances from Northern Rail over jobs, services and safety. However, the company continues to ride roughshod over our efforts.

“We therefore had no option but to ballot all staff for action to force the company to take these issues seriously and the members have now voted decisively for action. That mandate will now be considered by the union.

“The union is committed to ending the two-tier workforce that the security contract creates and calls for all workers to be brought in-house on decent pay and conditions.

“We are also committed to keeping ticket offices opening and defending guards’ jobs, which are safety-critical.

“The RMT remains available for talks and we expect the company to now take this dispute, and the issues at the heart of it, seriously.”

Northern Rail is owned by a 50:50 joint venture between Serco Group and Abellio, a subsidiary of NS Dutch Railways. The company employs 4,900 workers and runs 2,500 services every week day.

The RMT said 1,500 of its members are involved in the dispute.

Adrian Thompson, human resources director for Northern Rail, said: “We are disappointed that RMT Northern members have voted in favour of strike action and industrial action short of a strike, but note that only 38% of members who were asked to vote, voted yes to this. That means 62% of people who were asked to vote either voted no or did not vote.

“The RMT executive committee has said it is now considering the result. As soon as we have any further information, we will update our customers.

“Some of the RMT’s issues within this strike ballot are about the requirements for the next Northern franchise, which starts in April 2016.

“We have explained to the RMT that this means the issues they are concerned about are not part of Northern Rail’s current franchise and are not within our control to change. They would need to be discussed with the new operator of the franchise from April 2016.”

The Department for Transport is expected to announce the winner of the next Northern franchise later this year.