The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 12th January 2018

Massive rail strike to keep guards on trains

MEMBERS of the RMT transport union employed by six different rail franchise companies staged three separate strikes this week in the biggest rail strike for decades to defend the role of guards on trains.

The strikes took place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Northern, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line (on the Isle of Wight). RMT members working on Southern Rail, where the battle to keep the role of guards has been waged for over two years now, also took strike action on Monday.

The union is pressuring the Government for summit talks to stop the Government-backed change to Driver Only Operated (DOO) trains.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said on Monday: “RMT members remain solid and united in each of the separate disputes across the country over rail safety this morning as we continue to fight to put public safety, security and access before the profits of the train operating companies.

“ Today we have written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling calling for summit talks under an independent chair to break the deadlock in these long-running disputes. We expect a positive response to this important initiative and we welcome the support of both the Labour Party and the TUC for our proposal. It offers a real chance of progress.

“It makes no sense at all that we have been able to agree long-term arrangements in Wales and Scotland which secure the guard guarantee and which underpin the basic principles of safety, access and security for the travelling public. If that rail safety guarantee is right for Wales and Scotland then it must be right for the rest of the UK.”

In Brighton on Monday, disabled pensioner Miriam Binder, a member of Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), was out before daylight in her wheelchair and with her dog Pudsey, outside Brighton station giving out leaflets in support of the RMT strikes. She told the Latest Brighton news service of the increasing difficulties that disabled people face, increasing travel problems on trains with no guards and stations with no staff. Wheelchair users now have to give Southern Rail 24 hours-notice — and sometimes 48-hours — of their intent to travel and details of the journey they intend to make.

If she visits Worthing she has to come home before early evening because the station is not staffed after 8pm.

On Tuesday RMT confirmed that it had received no response from Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, either before, during or after the Tory reshuffle shambles, to the urgent call for a rail summit.

Mick Cash said: “Every single effort that RMT has made to reach negotiated settlements in these separate disputes with the different train operating companies over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces and we are left with no option but to press ahead with the action exactly as planned. No one should be in any doubt; these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.

“It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England. This suspension of normal industrial relations by the employers has to end if we are to make progress towards a solution that guarantees safe rail travel for all.

“It is ridiculous that Chris Grayling has completely refused to respond to RMT’s call for summit talks aimed at moving this fundamental issue of rail safety forwards. Now that he is no longer shuttling in and out of Downing Street and is back at his desk it is time for him to get on with his job and start talking.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady urged the Government to respond “positively” to the proposal.

Early on Monday morning, Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner voiced her “solidarity” for union members taking part in the strike. She sent a Twitter message: “Today I am sending my #Solidarity to all @RMTunion members who are reluctantly having to take strike action in their continued Health&Safety campaign to #KeepTheGuardOnTheTrain”.