A new battle at Waterloo
"THE FEELING at Waterloo is very strong. People are coming up to me inside and outside work saying that they are very angry about Sarah's sacking." So said the London Waterloo RMT rail union branch secretary, Greg Tucker, on the eve of the first of a series of one day strikes over the sacking of driver and health and safety rep Sarah Friday. The first strike was due to take place on Thursday and the second was planned for Friday next week.
The dispute goes to the heart of everything that is wrong about the privatised rail system. Sarah was sacked on trumped-up charges that included "failing to advise her supervisor that she was going to the toilet". The real reason South West Trains sacked Sarah was her record of fighting for health and safety on the rail in the wake of the Southall and Paddington disasters.
South West Train drivers, who operate mostly on commuter lines out of Waterloo, often have to work seven hours without a break. The 150 guards' and drivers' strike vote was 64 in favour and 12 against. Greg Tucker says, "Management are shocked by the level of support. "RMT members know this is not just about Sarah. It goes beyond that. This strike is in the interest of the whole workforce."
This was underlined two weeks ago when a train crash involving South West Trains happened at Waterloo. Thirty people were injured, one seriously. The direct cause of the crash is not yet known, but trade unionists at Waterloo have no confidence in the company drawing the broader lessons from it. Support for Sarah has poured in. As well as RMT branches there have been messages of solidarity from workers at the Royal Opera House, MSF technical union branches in London and Bradford, Ealing teachers and various trades councils.
- Reinstate Sarah Friday solidarity picket, Thursday 23 March, 7am to 10am, outside Waterloo Station (corner of Lower Marsh and Baylis Road). Rush messages of support and donations to Sarah Friday Campaign, c/o 3 Blades House, London SE11 5TW. Fax 020 7207 3781.