Socialist Worker

Guards' strike and drivers' action hit Southern rail but bosses run to the courts

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2533

Guards on strike at London Victoria station on Tuesday

Guards on strike at London Victoria station on Tuesday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Southern rail was hit by a three-day train guards’ strike and a drivers’ overtime ban from Tuesday of this week.

The action is the latest step in a row over the imposition of driver only operation by bosses at owners Govia Thameslink Railway.

The impact caused severe disruption. Southern struggled to run even half of its train services.

Tory transport minister Chris Grayling called workers taking action “militants”.

But striking RMT union member Mel told Socialist Worker, “He should really come out and job share with us and get a reality check.”

The strike came as Govia bosses went to the High Court in a bid to stop a strike by drivers in the Aslef union.

Govia was seeking approval from judges this Wednesday that, under European Union (EU) law, strikes restrict its “freedom” to make money and impede passengers’ “freedom of movement”.

Tory anti-union laws have successfully been used twice this year to block drivers from striking.

Train drivers’ union Aslef was ordered by the court to pay nearly £1 million in costs.


But passengers have faced “travel misery” long before any industrial action began.

Despite the delays, cancellations, bullying of staff and lies pumped out by the firm the Tories back bosses to the hilt.

If judges grant the injunction it will be a green light to every boss across the EU. As striker Victor told Socialist Worker, “If they rule for Govia, what is the TUC going to do about it?

“It will mean that across every industry, every employer can run to the courts to stop strikes.”

This dispute has always been for high stakes.

Govia is paid a multimillion pound contract on behalf of the Tories to push through driver only operation.

If they win they will want to to roll out the attack.

Workers are fighting for safety for everyone. But the Tories are only interested in how bosses can increase profits at public expense.

Grayling was set to announce his plan to privatise Network Rail as Socialist Worker went to press. Handing responsibility for track maintenance to train operators is a recipe for disaster.

The minister’s band of free marketeers also plan to create the first fully privatised line in Britain between Oxford and Cambridge. Rail privatisation is deeply unpopular. Polls constantly show people back renationalisation.

Southern train guards and drivers are on the front line of this battle. The leaders of the trade union movement need to step up and fight alongside them.

Go here to donate to the RMT strikers. Send solidarity messages to the guards to [email protected]

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