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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:10 GMT
Rail unions plan new strikes
Arriva commuter
Commuters are warned to expect a long dispute
Commuters on Arriva trains in the north of England will face further strikes in March.

Rail union leaders confirmed they will stage walk-outs on 1 and 2 March unless guards are given a pay rise.

Officials from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union's national executive met on Wednesday to discuss the new strike dates.

Meanwhile the union said fresh talks were planned to avert further strikes on the South West Trains network.

Longer trains

The news broke during a second 48-hour stoppage to hit Arriva's services.

The RMT says it wants the company to address the issue of pay disparities between train drivers and other staff.

The second 48-hour walk-out started at 0001 GMT on Tuesday and has caused chaos to routes across northern England.

On Wednesday the train company said it was operating a similar service to Tuesday's, with managers acting as conductors, longer trains in use, and 32% of services running.

Striking rail workers
Strikers say they are ready for a long dispute

The RMT says support among its members is strong, with more pickets out at stations during the dispute than they had during the first 48-hour stoppage in January.

RMT north east regional organiser Stan Herschel told BBC News Online: "We have a desire to get back around the negotiating table, and I am still waiting for a phone call from Arriva."

An Arriva spokesman told BBC New Online: "We are also looking forward to resuming discussions as soon as possible."

Mr Hershel said support for the strike was strong among RMT members, and that they were also receiving support from the public.

Productivity targets

Last-minute talks failed to prevent the walk-out by about 700 guards and conductors.

The RMT wants the pay gap between guards and drivers to be narrowed - Arriva says any changes have to be linked to productivity targets.

The union wants at least a 16% rise in basic pay, but the company has only offered 8%.

Talks were held at the weekend between the two sides but there was no sign of a breakthrough in time to head off the next round of strikes.

Euan Cameron, Arriva managing director has called the strike "unreasonable action".

Impartial negotiations

The firm insists its offer to raise pay from 15,500 to 16,760 is fair, but the union says much of the offer is dependent on accepting fewer weekend and holiday shifts.

Mr Cameron said there was still two avenues left for negotiations - a pay deal spread over two years or taking the dispute to impartial negotiators Acas.

An analyst has estimated the Arriva strikes alone cost the economy 7m a day.

Meanwhile managers at South West Trains (SWT) announced plans to step up the number of services it will run during strikes.

The firm said it is set to run almost 1,000 services next week, when members of the RMT union stage further 24 strikes from noon on Monday and Wednesday - threatening disruption over four days.

SWT has trained managers to stand in for striking guards, enabling it to run more services.

Parent company Stagecoach will bring in buses from all over the country to help transport passengers.

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"The RMT are warning they will continue with strike action if necessary"
General Secretary of the RMT Bob Crowe
"We had meaningful discussions on Friday but they broke down on Saturday"
Arriva Managing Director Euan Cameron
"This is an unreasonable action taken by the RMT"
See also:

05 Feb 02 | England
Commuters face up to strike
05 Feb 02 | UK
Rail disputes at a glance
04 Feb 02 | England
Train strike over four days
30 Jan 02 | England
Further strike for Arriva Trains
24 Jan 02 | England
Commuters stranded by rail strike
24 Jan 02 | England
Guards aim for striking impact
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