By Joe Turnbull
RAIL UNION leaders say they could suspend their industrial action over the Christmas period.
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union, which has 83,000 members, has held a series of strikes, over plans to cut guards on some Northern Rail trains.
Talks are continuing, but if the issue is not resolved the RMT may call more strikes in the New Year.
RMT press officer Geoff Martin said: “To stop any potential industrial action in the future, Northern Rail must withdraw the threat to throw guards off their trains, any plans for future industrial action is under executive review.”
The RMT are backing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to renationalize the railways.
The union’s general secretary, Mick Cash said: “RMT members stand solid, united and determined again in the latest phase of strike action in a raft of separate disputes which are putting safety, security and access to transport services before the profiteering of these rip off private rail companies.
“This dispute is about public safety and the fact Northern can’t or won’t grasp that basic fact leaves us with no option to strike.”
Geoff Martin added: “Safety, that’s what our priority is when it comes to our members.”
Northern Rail deny that changes to guards will endanger the safety of the public.
Sharon Keith, from Northern Rail, said: “We are prepared to guarantee jobs and pay for conductors for the next eight years. Northern is committed to delivering new trains, faster journeys and better stations for customers.”
Northern Rail said it ran more than 60 per cent of services and ran 1,300 services on the last day of strikes on November 8, more than any other strike day, but some trains were replaced by bus services, and at rush hour trains were more crowded than usual.
Helen Robertson, a frequent commuter from Leeds station, said: “It was chaos, there was no room to sit down.”
Leeds was not the only city affected by the strike. Merseyrail, Southern, and Greater Anglia and South Western trains were all affected by the industrial action.
As for the run up to Christmas, Glyn Hallam, press officer for Northern Rail said: “We haven’t been notified by the unions if there will be any strike action in the festive period.”
On November 17, RMT voted to strike again, this time on Virgin Trains, which could impact customers travelling to Leeds station.
There has been no date set for the industrial action.