Metro strike WILL go ahead on 'two of the busiest days of the year' as drivers prepare to walk out
Thousands of passengers who use the Tyne and Wear Metro will face disruption as the service stops running for a two-day strike.
Nexus, the public body was owns and manages Metro, has also called on the union to look again at the pay rise and improved rostering arrangements on offer to them.
The strike action falls on what Nexus says are two of the busiest days of the year, as well as coinciding with a Newcastle United home game at 3pm on Saturday.
Chris Carson, Metro Services Director, has hit out at the union – and said it has demonstrated “a callous disregard” for customers affected by the strike action.
In a statement released on the day before the strike, Mr Carson said: “This RMT train crew strike is totally unjustified and it is going to bring misery to many thousands of passengers on two very busy days in the countdown to Christmas.
“Tens of thousands of working people and businesses rely on Metro services, especially at this time of year. The union has demonstrated a callous disregard for the travelling public.
“Unfortunately, people will need to plan ahead and find alternative modes of travel over the two days of the strike.
“Our passengers need to be clear that this action is going ahead despite Nexus offering Metro train crew a 15% rise in pay over two years, on top of cost-of-living increases, and improved shift patterns.
“Our offer would bring Metro’s train crew salary up to £46,000 per year by April 2022 after taking into account cost-of-living increases.
“We initiated further talks two weeks ago to avoid industrial action and agreed to meet the vast majority of union demands about rostering and shift patterns, but this was still not enough to prevent them from walking away and starting industrial action.
“Nexus is publicly funded and Metro does not make a profit. We use revenue from fares and a subsidy from taxpayers in order to meet Metro’s running costs, and we are already under huge funding pressure.
“The RMT union clearly wants a lot more than the 15% increase we have offered, although they still seem unwilling to state this publicly.
“That is just not possible as to pay for it we would have to look at cutting the services we provide, including Metro and socially necessary bus services, to fund the gap.
“I am sorry for the impact this dispute will have on working people who use Metro and local businesses in the run-up to Christmas, but we simply cannot afford to go beyond the very reasonable offer we have made.
“I urge our employees to think long and hard about the impact of industrial action. It harms an essential public transport service, its passengers, and the area as a whole.”
What has the RMT said?
Steve Hedley, the union’s assistant general secretary, said: “Our members have had enough. This is not a decision that they have taken lightly, but they feel that there is no other option.
“They know that they are not offering a competitive wage. They cannot sustain a situation where they are losing staff all of the time. Even before the industrial action, trains have been getting cancelled because there are not enough drivers.”
Mr Hedley said that rival rail firms such as LNER, TransPennine Express, and ScotRail offer annual driver salaries of around £55,000 – far higher than the £46,000 that Nexus has offered.