Paddington rally for two major rail strikes

MEMBERS of the RMT rail union, the train drivers’ union Aslef, TSSA and Unite held a rally on Wednesday evening 8th July in Paddington in support of two major rail strikes due to start on Wednesday evening — on First Great Western and on the London Underground.

The LU dispute centres on plans by Transport for London and London Mayor Boris Johnson to introduce 24-hour running of some LU lines at weekends.

Talks on Tuesday to avert the planned 24-hour strike failed. RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has received the latest offer from London Underground during the ACAS talks today

“Our representatives on London Underground have discussed it and are clear that it is divisive and unacceptable. While a small minority of staff are being offered a non-consolidated one-off lump sum the remainder of staff are ignored and the key issues of work/life balance and the personal health and safety concerns are side lined.

“The deal as it stands is financed off the back of the proposed axing of over 800 safety-critical station jobs and is deliberately constructed to play individuals off against each other in the most cynical fashion.

“RMT is a democratic organisation and the views of our reps on LU are being taken into account. There will be a meeting of the union executive tomorrow morning at which there will be a recommendation to reject the offer.

“As is normal in all industrial negotiations RMT will remain available for talks.”

There are also fears that the extra costs of keeping the Underground running all night will result in cuts to the London night bus services.

The First Great Western dispute centres on the introduction of new Hitachi Inter-City trains leading to a threat to jobs and safety. Talks to avert the strike failed on Monday.

RMT said on Monday: “Talks aimed at settling a dispute on First Great Western over the threat to jobs and safety from the introduction of the new Hitachi Inter-City trains have broken down without agreement and the 48 hours of strike action across the company starting at 18.30 hours on Wednesday 8th July goes ahead as planned.

“There will also be a rally in support of RMT’s members on FGW in their dispute at 17.00 hours Wednesday 8th July at Paddington station.”

RMT said that First Great Western were simply playing for time in the talks and were going through the motions rather than tackling the fundamental issues at the heart of the dispute and addressing the union’s key points which are:

Mick Cash said: “RMT has made every effort to secure a series of very basic assurances from FGW over jobs, services and safety as a result of the introduction of the new Hitachi fleet and they have shown no intention of addressing those issues in the talks today.

“RMT is angry and disappointed that the company have ignored the massive vote for action by their staff and have instead opted to plough ahead with a series of actions that will decimate jobs, services and safety.

“As a result of FGW collapsing the talks in this cavalier fashion the action goes ahead as planned.

“It is frankly ludicrous that East Coast, who are introducing the same trains, have given us the assurances we are seeking but FGW have ignored us and are crashing on with the ripping out of buffet cars and the threat to safety- critical station and train staff purely to maximise the profits from new trains bought for them by the British taxpayer.

“RMT will be out at stations this week with a public campaign to expose this shabby and profiteering treatment of both passengers and staff alike by a company that already has one of the worst reputations in the industry for milking the rotten rail privatisation racket for every penny they can.

“The ‘Worst Great Western’tag has been wrapped around this outfit by their own passengers and RMT will be building alliances with the services users to exert further pressure to end this outrageous profiteering and corner-cutting that will come at a heavy price in terms of jobs and safety.”

Meanwhile another rail dispute is building on Northern Rail. An RMT ballot for both strike action and action short of a strike of station and guard’s grades members over the threat to jobs and safety and the creation of a twotier workforce:

Eighty per cent voted for strike action and 90 per cent for action short of a strike.

The issues behind the dispute relate to the removal of permanent posts and the creation of zero-hour jobs via the contract with security company STM, cuts to booking offices and attacks on the role and responsibility of train guards.