Socialist Worker

Rail workers' red light over safety

by a York rail worker
Issue No. 2094

A strike by ten rail workers in the RMT union at Network Rail’s electrical control room in York led to the cancellation, on Thursday of last week, of maintenance and contract work on overhead power lines along the East Coast and branch lines.

Crucial engineering staff in Morpeth, Leeds, Doncaster and Hitchen depots refused to issue work licences on safety grounds after learning that managers supposedly doing the work of the strikers had as little as six days’ training.

The five day strike began at 6.59pm on Wednesday of last week.

It was aimed at blocking management’s plans to slash the number of operators in York from 18 to 12.

York RMT branch secretary Mark Russell said, “The RMT will never accept job losses, certainly none that will compromise the safety of the travelling public or our staff.”

Members of another rail union, TSSA, refused to cross their colleagues’ picket line.

A TSSA member told Socialist Worker, “It’s fantastic that TSSA members felt confident enough to respect the RMT picket line. They’re now also being balloted for action.”

Work scheduled to take place at the Heaton depot on Thursday was also cancelled after the necessary licences were not issued.

The RMT has said that any attempt to discipline the workers concerned would result in a ballot for strike action among all overhead-line staff.

Bob Crow, the RMT’s general secretary, said, “Our members were not satisfied that the York electrical control room was being operated safely and invoked the company’s own procedures to ensure that they were not placed in danger.”

Train drivers on South West Trains in the Aslef union are set to strike from Monday to Thursday of next week after a breakdown in negotiations over pay and hours.

Some 73 percent of union members voted for strike action in a ballot.

South West Trains is owned by Stagecoach Group. It runs commuter services from and into London’s Waterloo station.

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Article information

Tue 25 Mar 2008, 18:57 GMT
Issue No. 2094
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