Union offers to suspend latest Sunderland and Hartlepool rail strike

Northern's Sunderland and Hartlepool services have been hit by a lengthy series of weekend strikes.
Northern's Sunderland and Hartlepool services have been hit by a lengthy series of weekend strikes.

Union leaders have offered to suspend its latest round of weekend rail strikes

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) unionhas offered to suspend this weekend's planned disruption to Arriva Rail North's Northern services if the company agrees to a "series of crucial guarantees" on the continued role of guards on its trains.

Northern, whose Durham coast line covers Sunderland, Seaham, Hartlepool, Seaton Carew and Billingham stations, has had to run reduced timetables since the RMT began its weekly action earlier this year.

Only this week the union - which fears for staff and passenger safety if guards are axed - announced plans for Saturday strikes throughout December.

Now its executive has said in a statement: "We are available across the weekend and would welcome talks commencing as soon as possible and further reiterate our numerous previous requests for tripartite talks with both the company and the Department for Transport.

"In addition, we will be prepared to suspend the industrial action planned for December 1 providing that clarity is received from the company regarding a new proposal that will see the retention of a second person on-board trains."

The union said it wanted a 100% guarantee that no trains will run without the second member of staff on board and that the second member of staff will be clearly designated as safety critical to the running of all services.

The union said it wanted a response by noon on Friday to be able to suspend this weekend's industrial action.

The Department of Transport is in talks over the row with the Rail North Partnership, which co-manages the Northern franchise, with ministers promising financial support to secure the future of guards.

Northern, which is finalising a response to the offer, has previously said that all existing guard jobs would be protected until the end of its current franchise in 2025.