Workers in Scotland, London and the south east of England are stepping up their strikes to resist bosses’ plans to undermine safety on the railways.
RMT union train guards oppose the extension of driver only operation (DOO). DOO would get rid of guards and transfer their safety responsibilities onto train drivers.
At Scotrail and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) long-running disputes over DOO are about to escalate.
The RMT has called another five days of strikes by Scotrail guards beginning with a two-day strike starting on Sunday. A busy Edinburgh Festival will put bosses under pressure.
Guards on Southern, part of GTR, are set to begin a five-day strike on Monday of next week.
Brighton train guard and RMT rep Simon told Socialist Worker the attack is “government sponsored”. He said, “The aim of extending DOO is to smash the rail unions.”
Ministers in Westminster and Edinburgh are, at best, staying silent about the attack or misleading the public. At worst, public officials are directing the assault.
The director of passenger services at the Department for Transport (DfT) publicly predicted “punch ups” with unions in the south east.
The DfT pays GTR to run Southern and other lines. The firm was allowed to bring in a new timetable that cut 350 trains a day to provide a “greater level of certainty”.
But train despatcher Ricky told Socialist Worker, “The timetable is collapsing around them. It’s just one big mess from top to bottom.”
Southern claims it doesn’t have enough workers to run trains due to staff sickness.
But Victor, a Southern RMT union rep, said, “They are not employing enough guards or drivers and expect us to work our rest days. People think twice about doing that because of the way they been treated by them.”
Ricky added, “It’s all profits, profits, profits with them—that’s the problem.”
It is positive that passenger groups have held demonstrations against the company and not blamed the unions.
The Southern crisis has also led to the resignation of Claire Perry, who said she was “often ashamed to be the rail minister”.
Extending DOO across Britain’s railways is worth up to £350 million to the train operators. But the unions stand in their way.
Anti-union laws have been used to stop GTR drivers’ strikes and action short of strike by guards. This week it looked like Scotrail bosses were at it too. The Scottish National Party government should intervene.
An offer had been made as Socialist Worker went to press. But many workers felt it was too vague and not enough to suspend action.
The guards can win. The RMT and Aslef unions should bring other Scotrail workers into the fight.
More than 1,000 GTR station staff in the RMT are balloting for strikes over cuts and reorganisation.
Bosses justify cuts by saying that 70 percent of passengers don’t buy tickets in ticket offices. Yet the other 30 percent make up 98 million journeys a year.
And ticket office staff do much more than sell tickets. The ballot ends on 16 August. Ricky said, “The logical thing to do is to all go out together.”