Public transport bosses have urged two sides in a strike that could affect thousands of concertgoers to agree to more talks.
Nexus, the public body which owns and manages the Tyne and Metro system, called on the RMT union and DB Regio - which operates the Metro - to urgently agree to arbitration and to halt to the planned Metro strike due to take place next Wednesday.
Nexus is urging both sides to call in the concilliation service ACAS and for the RMT to call off the strike until that process has taken place.
The strike is coinciding with the date pop band One Direction are playing at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, affecting thousands of young fans set to be heading to the gig.
Last night Nexus deputy director general Tobyn Hughes said: “I urge the RMT and DB Regio to urgently call in ACAS in order to avoid Wednesday’s strike, which will cause disruption to thousands of passengers. Arbitration provides a process by which disputes of this nature can be resolved without recourse to industrial action.
“I am disappointed that the RMT called industrial action without exploring options like this first. Nobody can seriously believe the RMT’s claim that a strike being called on the same day as the One Direction concert was merely a coincidence.
“We should all remember that many of the concert-goers on Wednesday will be children. There is still time for the RMT and DB Regio to resolve this unnecessary dispute amicably so that we can provide a Metro service throughout the day for all of our customers.”
If the strike goes ahead Metro will only be able to provide a limited service during the whole of Wednesday.
Nexus has asked DB Regio to run as many trains as possible and give a priority to trains between Newcastle and Sunderland. Extra trains and buses are also being put on.
Last night Sharon Kelly, customer services and operations director at DB Regio, said: “We are disappointed that the RMT has chosen to take this action, which is targeted at Metro customers – many of them children and young people - on a day they are well aware is a very busy one for the North East. The RMT has a history of staging action on the day of big regional events both here and in other parts of the country and this case is no different.
“We don’t believe our dismissal process was unfair or unjust. We believe the best way to settle this is through independent arbitration, or by the RMT supporting the individual through an Employment Tribunal.”
The strike by members of the RMT, which represents around 40% of the near 200 Metro drivers, comes following the dismissal of a union member by DB Regio under its wellbeing policy, which relates to sickness leave.