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Metro drivers back industrial action over pay, operator Nexus 'astonished'

Metro drivers who are members of two trade unions have voted in favour of industrial action. Credit: PA Images

Metro drivers who are members of two trade unions have backed industrial action over a pay dispute - operator Nexus has said it is "astonished" by the move.

Staff in the RMT and ASLEF unions have opted to reject a 15 per cent pay rise over two years on top of annual rises, Nexus has described this deal as "unprecedented" and said it would take their annual salary up to an estimated £46,000 per year by April 1 2022.

The members of both unions have balloted in favour of industrial action, with the following measures being advised:

* Overtime ban and rest day working ban from 00.01 hours on Sunday 1st December until further notice.

* All train crew coaches to cease the voluntary role of coach/mentor pertaining to train drivers. This to include both in and out of passenger service, as well as, class room activities/duties from 00.01 hours on Sunday 1st December until further notice.

Metro Services Director, Chris Carson, said:

We are about to start the process of transforming the Metro system with a new train fleet and as part of this we have made an unprecedented pay offer to our Metro drivers of a 15 percent increase in salary over two years, on top of the annual cost of living rise.

In return for this we are asking for some changes to working practices that will reduce the likelihood of trains being cancelled due to driver shortages, and help us with the once-in-a-lifetime task of introducing a new train fleet.

We're astonished that this offer has been rejected and that the trades unions not only want more pay, but also to work reduced shift lengths which can only be achieved by us employing significantly more drivers. The trades unions have not made any suggestions as to where the money should come from to pay for this.

Metro is a publicly owned service run for the benefit of the local community. Not only does it not make any profit, but it can only operate thanks to significant subsidy paid by taxpayers.

Metro is about to benefit from the biggest investment since it opened, with new trains coming that will improve the drivers' working environment every bit as much as they will transform the experience for passengers.

– Chris Carson, Nexus

He urged the unions to finalise details of the pay deal with Nexus and added that if any action did happen the public would be kept informed of what was happening.

ASLEF told ITV Tyne Tees that drivers' pay needed to stay competitive.

A spokesperson said:

We are disappointed that the company, which had indicated it would do its best to match drivers’ salaries offered elsewhere on the rail network, and consequently stop the drain of drivers from Tyne & Wear Metro, has decided, at the last moment, to come up short.

The company needs to get its act together, deliver on promises it made in private, and make sure it trains and retains the right number of drivers it needs to run the service it has promised passengers it will deliver. The company is haemorrhaging staff and only the company can put that right.

– ASLEF

The RMT has released the following statement:

RMT has received a report from our regional organiser recommending we implement the overwhelming ballot result at NEXUS and taking the union into a formal programme of industrial action. That report will be considered by RMT’s executive.

“It is wholly down to the company that drivers pay and conditions have been allowed to stagnate and slip way behind the industry norm, creating a staffing crisis as drivers head for other train operators where they can get a better deal.

“It is ludicrous for the company to ignore the facts and to run to the media with a megaphone in hand to attack their remaining staff and the unions who are simply looking for a rational settlement that recognises the historic failure to keep pace.”

– RMT general secretary Mick Cash