On 26 November RMT announced that Northern Rail guards had voted "nearly 95%" in a ballot to approve further negotiations on "changes to the operational mode" to implement the promise made by Arriva Rail North via ACAS in February 2019 of a "conductor on every train... for the remainder of the franchise".
There is no clear timescale for the talks. The general promise is surely a victory, compared to what the company wanted. But there is a problem. RMT has agreed that drivers, rather than guards, will close train doors, only the guard tells the driver when to do that by pressing a buzzer.
As one guard commented in October: "There is the small matter that the buzzer is not live while the doors are open. But in case they get a technical fix for that, the bigger question is: why would the company get the guard to press something to tell the driver to close the doors, when they can just as easily have them press something to close the
doors themselves? The only answer to that question is that their longer-term aim is to scrap the guard".
For now most guards have concluded that this is the best they can hope for. Aslef, the main drivers' union, is still refusing to have drivers take on the job of closing doors. A good number of drivers see no reason to take that work from the guards. Others may be tempted by the company offering them extra money for it. But if Aslef holds firm, Arriva Rail North could yet be forced into leaving the guards' jobs intact.