The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 10th February 2017

RMT dismay at TUC/ASLEF sell-outs

by Daphne Liddle

THE RMT transport union last week expressed anger and dismay as the leadership of the drivers’ union ASLEF effectively sabotaged the campaign to keep guards on the trains in the long-running Southern Rail dispute by doing a separate deal in talks brokered by the TUC and from which the RMT had been excluded.

The new deal has yet to be voted on by the ASLEF membership but it effectively gives Southern Rail everything it was aiming for. The result of the ASLEF membership ballot is due on 16th February.

ASLEF leaders are boasting that it does preserve the role of the guard on the train but there is a long list of exceptions that make this “guarantee” almost meaningless.

Alex Gordon, an RMT officer, commented on Facebook: “A senior ASLEF official is quoted in tonight’s Evening Standard as saying the proposed sell-out guarantees a second safety critical person on every train.

“In my opinion he is either:

  1. In denial,
  2. Lying,
  3. Cannot read,
  4. Management have withheld Appendix ‘A’ below.

“Just in case it is case it is 4 above I have copied the offending appendix for his attention below. To ensure he reads it.”

The Appendix A that is quoted is headed: “Agreed reasons to run without an OBS [on board supervisor/guard]”.

The seven reasons listed are:

  1. OBS absent/late on duty or unauthorised absence at the start of the day and where there is no cover available to run this service,
  2. Late notice OBS sickness/emergency leave and where there is no alternative cover available to run this service,
  3. OBS delayed whilst “passing” to work,
  4. OBS displaced by late running or service disruption,
  5. OBS unable to continue having commenced booked diagram (for example through sickness or assault),
  6. Driver or OBS error (for example OBS is left behind by driver and/or OBS error or OBS misreading roster/diagram,
  7. OBS has to leave service to cope with a passenger incident or civil emergency.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This so-called agreement is a shocking and historical betrayal presided over by the TUC of not only the conductor grade and drivers, but also passengers, including disabled passengers, who have lost the guarantee of a second member of staff on their trains.

“This abysmal document lists a whole host of areas where a train can leave without a second member of staff that will leave both the driver and passengers exposed and vulnerable, and which also represents a thin end of the wedge that will lead to the de-staffing of trains.”

Cash accused Aslef of betraying train conductors who have long fought against DOO [driver only operation], saying that conductors “have had the legs kicked from under them by those who are supposed to be on their side”.

“Passengers and staff alike have been sold out by a stitch-up cooked up in Congress House by the TUC and the bosses while Southern, one of the most anti-union and hated companies of recent times, is laughing all the way to the bank and have been given a free run to rip up the safety rule book in the name of profits,” Cash added.

“This is not a deal, it is a disgrace, and the RMT dispute remains on and we will fight this shocking betrayal with every tool at our disposal.”

The RMT had not been invited to the talks between ASLEFand GTR and are still in dispute with the Southern operator, with some of its drivers engaged in recent industrial action.

On Wednesday morning there was an incident on a London Overground train in Dalston, north London that highlighted the need for a guard on every train. London Underground is run by Transport for London (TfL) and their trains do not have guards.

A workman’s drill battery pack exploded into flames on the train and the carriage filled with smoke. Several people were injured as, with no guard to supervise, passengers panicked and stampeded out of the train, jumping on to the track.

The previous week an incident went viral online when, on a train to Aberdeen, a young women and her son were subjected to a tirade of racial abuse from a drunken middle-aged man, who boasted that the incident would be “just her word against mine”.

But the guard heard it all and told the abuser. He summoned Transport Police and had the man removed from the train; the abuser was later fined in court. Without the role of the guard the young women and her son would have been at the mercy of the abuser.