Up to 200 rail workers from every region across Britain protested in Westminster on Tuesday in support of train guards on Southern rail.
They are fighting to defend safety from the Tories’ favourite rail bosses Govia Thameslink Railway.
Brighton train guards Jane and Roberta described Govia as “bullies” and the service since they took over as “shambolic”.
Guards in the RMT union were set to strike for 48 hours from Friday against Govia’s plan to scrap their safety responsibilities.
Their new role would focus on checking tickets and giving out fines.
This latest walkout in the long-running fight comes as drivers in the Aslef and RMT unions begin their own ballot.
If they vote to strike—and the unions quickly coordinate action—it can undermine the bosses’ strategy of keeping the guards isolated. Bosses compromised with station staff, and have sought to legally block drivers’ strikes.
A new scandal about Southern’s woeful service or the tens of millions Govia extracts from its special management contract erupts almost every week.
Roberta blamed bosses for the mess on Southern. She said, “The service is understaffed. It’s all profit before people. We know if they get this through there will be no second safety critical person on trains.”
A local councillor in Croydon, south London, launched a petition last week calling to “sack Southern”. It was just the latest call for such a move. Even Tory MPs have had to speak out.
Passenger groups are seeking a judicial review into the decision-making that gave Govia its cushy deal.
London Victoria train guard Cassie was angry about the millions of public money “going straight to the bosses while they mess us all around”. She was pleased that drivers were now balloting.
“We need us all out together,” she said. “They can’t run a service if we do that.”
Jane added, “Every other operator is watching this dispute for the outcome. But I think we can win this.”
Is trouble down the line on the London Underground?
Nearly 3,500 London Underground stations staff are being balloted by the RMT union for strikes over jobs and safety.
This is an ongoing battle over issues produced by the closure of ticket offices with 873 job losses. Staff are struggling to cope and vital control rooms have closed, creating a safety risk.
The RMT is also balloting 400 drivers on the Piccadilly Line over a breakdown in industrial relations. Both ballots end on Tuesday 15 November.