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RMT announces nationwide series of strikes across six franchises

The RMT have announced further strike action across six operators over separate disputes.

In protest over what it deems as an attack on the role of the guard and the extension of Driver Only Operation, the union has confirmed strikes across the UK in November.

Members on Northern and Merseyrail have been advised not to book shifts on 8 November, and this is extended to the 9 November for members on Southern, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line - the latest franchise to vote in favour of strike action.

RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, called it “ludicrous” that agreements had been reached in Scotland and Wales, but not with rail companies in England.

He said: “RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory government that is interfering in these disputes to block negotiated settlements.

“It is outrageous that Theresa May and Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on overseas rail companies that rip-off the British passenger to subsidise their domestic transport operations while throwing the guards off our trains.”

The union wants to be able to negotiate freely with contractors and achieve a “guard guarantee,” which Cash says will put “British passenger safety before the rank exploitation of our rail network by overseas operators who are laughing all the way to the bank.” 

Responding to the announcement, a South Western Railway spokesperson said that it was “disappointed” by the decision to stage industrial action, calling the action “premature and unnecessary.”

They continued: "RMT bosses aren’t acting in the best interests of its members on the ground in SWR, who have said that our recent discussions have been open and productive.

“We urge the union to get back around the table to further discuss the issue so we can all agree on a way forward.”

Richard Allan, Northern’s deputy managing director, said: “We are prepared to guarantee jobs and pay for conductors for the next eight years if we can reach agreement on how our colleagues deliver better customer service using those fantastic new facilities.”

He reiterated that Northern remains “available for talks that are meaningful and clearly focused.”

Deputy managing director of Merseyrail, Andy Heath, criticised the union’s decision: “The union claims to be open to talks, but failed to respond to our most recent offer of a meeting.”

Greater Anglia train service delivery director, Richard Dean, said that the company is “disappointed” by the announcement.

He added: “We value our conductors highly and we have guaranteed their jobs until the end of the franchise in October 2025.

“In fact, we will be recruiting additional conductors, as we are replacing all of our trains with brand new trains from 2019, which will enable us to run more services.”

Top Image: Victoria Jones PA Wire

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Richard   26/10/2017 at 00:21

Whilst this will naturally bring the flurry of cries "Luddites" and "Jobsworths" etc., I increasingly feel there is something not quite right about all this. I'd be the first to agree that the Industry has to move with the times, but it seems obsessed with spending vast sums of money on technology to "improve the customer offering" but this invariably means staff losses and quite often, more complication. Passengers like to see staff around, whether at barriers, on platforms or on trains. Increasingly they have to endure aggressive barriers, automated announcements, complicated ticketing with increasing emphasis on electronic and mobile, and one man trains. During the last disputes on my TOC (GA) I saw many staff on picket lines who I know to be normal, hard-working and conscientious people. Never saw them as militants and still don't, but something has broken down in Industrial Relations that has seen them taking this disruptive action, at financial loss because they feel they no longer matter or have the confidence in their Management. Undoubtedly there is an element of Union power-play going on here, but nevertheless Management in many areas are "losing" their staff's goodwill and we must ask why?

PP   26/10/2017 at 08:34

I see where you're coming from, Richard, but I actually think a lot of this is scaremongering, dishonesty and overtly politically-motivated scheming from the RMT. No TOC planning to introduce DOO is going to lay anyone off or reduce their pay - the plan is to get staff on trains into a different much more customer-focussed role, which is sorely needed. This is much more to do with union power to cripple the railway than anything else, and with all the exaggerated nonsense about safety and fatcat profits, they're attempting to manipulate staff into taking action against their better interests. They know for a fact that TOC profits are wafer-thin and that they carry a lot of financial risk, and I'm convinced the RMT want to bring a TOC down over this. They'll gleefully crow about it when they do, but it won't be in anyone's interest. Passenger numbers have dropped slightly for the first time in years with the Southern dispute being a major factor, and if this is repeated and continued it puts everything the railway has achieved over the years at risk, including the job security of RMT members, and will scupper future investment.

Tothehills   26/10/2017 at 09:32

I find it in rather poor taste that the RMT wants to strike on Mersey Rail, given that one of their members working for that TOC deliberately killed a young woman to "teach her a lesson". I do want to be safe on the railways - I think it is safer for the passengers that a train driver decides when it is safe to pull out rather than receiving the info second hand. Do I think the Guard has an important role yes I do but their job is to manage passengers on, boarding and leaving the train. And that includes protecting revenue that pays for their job. I've rarely seen a guard doing that on a late train.

Jimbo   26/10/2017 at 09:50

I recently spoke to a fairly militant guard who saw his role as the safety of the train, not as a customer services role. This is why TOC's who want to retain a second member of staff and concentrate on the customer service role (eg. GA, Nothern, SWR) are being hit by strikes. Ultimately, the RMT have publically stated that they want to bring down the Tory government, which is why the PM's name is mentioned. They say the strikes are about safety, but they really mean is about the safety of their political power.

J, Leicester   26/10/2017 at 10:44

PP is spot on. Ultimately, a lot of the men and women who go on strike, initially at least, are genuine, hardworking individuals who want to protect their livelihoods. The unions themselves, however, mislead their own members with callous regularity and seem to treat industrial action as a power trip and they in the main seem to be backed by the more unreasonable elements of their membership with increasing frequency. Ironically, having initially supported the strikes on Southern over DOO, the longer it has dragged on, the more I've come to understand that the lack of job losses and TOC attempts to actually make staff more visible makes it an acceptable - even, dare I say, desirable - move for passengers. Complaints to the ORR are littered with anecdotes of passengers inconvenienced by guards "hiding in the back cab" or failing to check for or validate tickets, after all, with the result that passengers are required to explain themselves to jobsworths on arrival, and the cynic in me does wonder if there's an aspect of the more workshy guards out there resisting based on their fear of being found out in the change. They're a relatively small minority, but still a negative influence on TOC performance - they cost TOCs money in failing to issue tickets, and reputation when those genuine passengers who are ready to buy one are treated like criminals and have to explain themselves at their destination station. Slight tangent - not every station has ticket machines, and they're constantly out of use or being vandalised where they do - but some guards seem to be assuming with increasing frequency that all passengers have boarded with a ticket from all stations. As for the RMT's passenger safety claims - total nonsense. That the Tube, with its insanely high frequency and footfall, has managed to operate in such a way practically without incident for decades says it all. Staff will still be present on board, so issues on the train will still be dealt with - probably better than they would be by a guard reading the Metro in the back cab at any rate! I saw it during my time teaching with the NUT and NASUWT and I imagine the rail industry is no different - the most active union members and virulent supporters of industrial action are not the ones with the most to lose, but the ones with the most to hide.

Andrew Gwilt   26/10/2017 at 11:47

Well that's why its likely to happen again. So yeah here we go again. Let the strikes to happen.

Neil Palmer   26/10/2017 at 18:19

Political interference says Mick Cash, who has made this matter a political & power struggle instead of one he claims is over safety. Hardly anyone is fooled by the RMT's (Radical Marxist Trotskyites) claim that this is about safety. It's about their ability to maintain their power to cause disruption in future whenever they feel like they have some reason (like they don't like the colour of the seats in new trains for example). The RMT are not arbiters of what is safe on the railways, there are other organizations who bear that responsibility, and they have started DOO/DCO is safe. RMT members have been guaranteed jobs, and a second staff member on services that currently have them - the only difference being in exceptional situations the train service will run with a driver only, instead of cancelling the service and causing disruption for thousands of passengers. It's time to train the army to fill in when these radicals call their strikes. In fact, train the army to fill their positions, then lock out the RMT members who want to continue their political struggle, until they come to their senses and realize the enemy is their own union leadership.

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