Rail chiefs hit back as holidays strike looms

Rail chiefs have hit back at plans for strike action by hundreds of Northern conductors over a Christmas bank holiday pay and conditions row.

The RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) union has this week balloted Northern Rail's conductors for strike action.

It is demanding a new, additional payment for all conductors who work on Monday, December 27 and Tuesday 28.

However the rail firm says current conditions were agreed by the union several years ago and it is now "picking and choosing" which bits it wants to stick to,

For conductors, the firm says, Bank or Public Holidays have been classed as normal working days since they were "traded" for other benefits, including increased salaries and more annual leave, in restructuring agreements several years ago.

Adrian Thompson, HR director for Northern, said: "We have explained to the RMT that we will honour our agreed terms and conditions but will not make any payments over and above those long-standing agreements. We do not think it is reasonable for the RMT to demand a new additional payment for these Bank Holidays.

"This is because the previous additional payments for Bank Holidays were traded for other benefits when the restructuring agreements were implemented.

"The RMT is picking and choosing which bits of the agreement it wants to stick to and then calling for strike action when Northern is simply

keeping to the joint agreement."

The RMT has issued ballot papers to its members and the result is due on December 20. A walkout could take place on Monday, December 27.

Meanwhile the aftermath of the recent severe weather was continuing to affect some Northern routes yesterday, although the firm said the majority of services were operating as normal.

Steve Butcher, chief operating officer, said: "There are a couple of routes where the snow and ice is still a problem and we are working hard to resume services for passengers in those areas as soon as we can."

Check for up to date train running information phone 0845 301 7641 or log on at www.northernrail.org/journey/planner.

Rachel Reeves.

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