Sunderland passengers face chaos as train drivers ballot for strike

Bob Crowe, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union

Bob Crowe, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union

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NORTH East commuters could face chaos after the RMT union announced it is to ballot its members working for Northern Rail over strike action.

The union claims the rail operator is using agency and sub-contract labour for work it says should be carried out by its members.

RMT leaders says they have made it clear they believe the situation is unacceptable, and have tried to talk to the firm, but Northern Rail has pressed ahead regardless.

The union’s general secretary, Bob Crow, said: “There is a cynical drive to use casual agency staff to undermine job security, pay and working conditions on Northern Rail, and our members are furious that not only have the company refused to stop this practice, but they are driving it forwards.

“RMT has made it crystal clear that casualisation and a breach of our agreements are an outright attack on all of us, and will not be accepted in any way, shape or form.

“The ballot will open next week and will close on Monday, May 20.”

Northern Rail said the RMT was balloting members over seven items, six of which had already been resolved in principle. The only outstanding issue was the use of contracts for ticket inspection at stations.

HR director Adrian Thompson said: “The RMT is claiming Northern is gradually replacing employees with ‘agency staff,’ a claim that is completely unfounded and untrue.

“We do not want to put these people out of work. These contracts carry out a vital role, ensuring passengers have valid tickets and those fares are fully captured to reinvest into building a better railway.

“The changes the RMT is demanding we make would also potentially breach the rules governing the last 12 months of our franchise agreement.”