Socialist Worker

Southern Rail privatisers threaten to sack all strikers

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2524

Strikers and supporters on the picket line in September

Strikers and supporters on the picket line in September (Pic: Socialist Worker )

Train guards on Southern Rail faced the sack unless they accepted a new role and agreed to bosses’ terms by Thursday this week.

The Tories’ favourite rail firm, Southern’s operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), laid down the outrageous ultimatum on Monday ahead of a fresh wave of planned strikes.

GTR boss Charles Horton said his sacking threat is an “incredibly reasonable offer”.

Transport minister Chris Grayling called it a “perfectly sensible” way of conducting industrial relations—if you don’t get your way, impose it.

While Southern’s bosses attack the rail unions, its service has gone from bad to woeful.

Train guards are fighting to retain their safety roles. Bosses want to make them focus on issuing penalty fares, with passengers’ safety left to drivers alone.

This driver only operation is a priority for the Tories along with closing ticket offices and slashing jobs.

That’s why Grayling protects GTR’s profits despite mass cancellations and chronic delays. Rail unions must fight the threat—and everyone should back them.

And we need to renationalise our railways with no compensation to the privatisation parasites.

Support the Southern strikers to beat cash-grabbing tycoons

As Southern train guards prepared for a 72-hour walkout next Tuesday, bosses made a PR blunder asking passengers to “strike back” by tweeting at their RMT union.

It backfired as most instead attacked bosses and expressed solidarity with the workers.

Southern train guard Victor told Socialist Worker, “We haven’t come this far and through so much to walk away.

“We are in this for the long haul and the company shouldn’t be in any doubt about that. We’ll fight this all the way.”

Southern’s parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) wants to extend driver only operation, replacing guards’ safety critical role and replace it with an onboard supervisor role.

It insists this isn’t about money but “modernisation”—but it exposed its real motives in an email to workers.

It said, “We are extending the penalty fare scheme to cover all GTR stations from 30 September”.

Hitting targets for reducing ticketless travel will give GTR shareholders a tidy bonus from the Department for Transport.

To do this it is using penalty fares instead of hiring extra staff. Imposing the supervisor role will make guards police penalty fares—leaving train drivers with sole safety responsibility.

To deflect attention from its skeleton staffing levels, GTR blames its woeful service on workers using illness as a form of unofficial action. If bosses had any real evidence of that they would have used the Tory anti-union laws, just as they’ve repeatedly done to stop drivers striking. The Tory government backs GTR to the hilt and other rail firms are watching, ready to repeat the attack. Solidarity can help the guards to victory.

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