RMT calls national protest

THE TRANSPORT union RMT has called for a national protest for next Tuesday, 1st November, to assemble at 12.30pm in Old Palace Yard, opposite Parliament, to voice support for the role of train guards in its long-running dispute with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR)/Southern Rail.

It is a national demonstration and rally because the issue of defending the role of properly safety-trained guards on trains is arising all over the country because the private train-operating companies — urged on by the Government — are trying to save money by abolishing the role of train guards and going over the driver-only-operation (DOO).

The union also intends to press on with its third 72-hour strike this week but it has agreed to drop planned action on 3rd next week at the request of the Royal British Legion because this coincides with Poppy Day.

London Poppy Day is set to see volunteers with collection tins at stations and other hotspots from 7am until the end of the day. Military bands will play at various stations across central London and Canary Wharf, entertaining commuters throughout the day.

The union has wide support for its case from other rail unions and from pensioner and disability groups, whose members will find rail travel difficult of not impossible without the aid of train guards, especially at unstaffed stations.

Passenger groups are also supporting the role of guards and some have quoted instances from serious rail crashes where the drivers have been killed and the role of the safety-trained guard was paramount in protecting passenger safety and communicating with the rail authorities.

Next Tuesday’s assembly in Old Palace Yard from 12.30pm to 1.30pm will be followed by a rally inside Parliament from 2pm to 3.30pm in Committee Room 10.

Rally speakers include: Mick Cash, general secretary RMT; Manuel Cortes, general secretary TSSA; Andy McDonald MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport; a spokesperson from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC); Caroline Lucas MP for Brighton Pavilion; Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary TUC and Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention.

Mick Cash said: “Earlier this month the Transport Select Committee exposed the on-going shambles that is Southern Rail and the blind-eye that has been turned by the Government to gross-mismanagement of this franchise on an industrial scale.

“The Select Committee called on the Government to engage in talks with the company and the union. That call has been ignored.

“The demonstration and rally on 1st November will be a chance to show not only RMT’s opposition to GTR/Southern’s profit-motivated drive to get rid of guards on trains, but also to hear from those who will be most affected by the proposed cuts including pensioners and the disabled.”

The train drivers’ union protest last week accused the Government of “calling the shots” in the dispute over the role of train guards.

The union says it will ballot train drivers on industrial action, in the same dispute about the role of guards. The president of ASLEF, Tosh McDonald, told reporters: “Strikes are a last resort. ASLEF have got to a situation with Southern where they’re continually wanting to make job cuts and continually wanting to impose new terms and conditions on our members. When we try and negotiate with them we get nowhere.

“It’s actually the Department for Transport who are...calling all the shots [and] Southern just dance to that tune. I don’t think they’re even able to negotiate with us.

“Human resources really make a bad situation very much worse in most cases we deal with,” he added. I don’t think the majority of human resource managers — obviously there’s an exception to every rule — have a clue about the real world and what people are dealing with.”

The TUC has also come out in support of the rail workers in this dispute. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Southern should not be gambling with passenger safety. Having a properly-trained guard on board is the very least commuters deserve.

“Southern needs to stop blaming unions for its own failures. Passengers will be at a loss to understand how a company that has been cancelling so many rail services can generate such massive profits and not be held to account by the Government. The travelling public deserve a much better deal.”