Socialist Worker

Why did TUC snub Southern guards in talks with bosses?

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2538

Southern rail strikers and supporters at Victoria station on Monday

Southern rail strikers and supporters at Victoria station on Monday (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Striking train guards on Southern rail are furious that TUC-brokered talks between train drivers’ union Aslef and management, which resumed on Monday, do not include their RMT union.

The guards walked out for 24 hours on the same day the talks resumed—the latest strike in their long and bitter dispute.

Aslef suspended three days of strikes this week for the talks chaired by TUC head Frances O’Grady and a director at rail firm Abellio.

RMT said last week it was “awaiting a response” from the TUC after writing to request the union be involved in the same process over the guards dispute.

The TUC told Socialist Worker that Aslef’s dispute “is separate to the RMT’s dispute with the company. Right now we are focused on trying to resolve the Aslef dispute.”

Train guard Victor told Socialist Worker, “The TUC are letting Southern guards down. Why is the RMT not part of the talks?

“Drivers and guards are fighting for the same thing. The TUC are helping the company divide and rule.”

Southern’s owners Govia Thameslink Railway have been hired by the Tories to go to war with the unions, get rid of guards and extend driver only operations.

This undermines safety at a time when passenger numbers are rising. Unions have called for bosses to commit to having a second safety critical staff member on trains.

The RMT said six times more services are travelling without a second member of staff than promised by Southern, since it imposed a new onboard supervisor role on guards.

Calling off strikes for talks without any commitment from bosses weakens the unions’ position. Some Tory MPs are clearly emboldened.

On Tuesday Chris Philp introduced a new bill to parliament to ban strikes in “critical national services” and hand judges the power to dictate what industrial action is “reasonable and proportionate”.

Great Western cleaners hit out at bullies

Cleaners working for Servest on Great Western Railway struck for 48 hours last week.

The RMT union members walked out over “serious bullying, claims of discrimination and poverty working conditions”, their union said.

Strikers in Woolwich are not ferry happy

Workers on the Woolwich Ferry across the Thames in east London have called a series of 12 one-day strikes starting on Friday.

The Unite union members are in dispute over a “failure to abide by agreements, health and safety concerns, and a culture of bullying and sexual harassment”.

Ballot over contractor at London Midland

Over 500 train guards are balloting for strikes on London Midland over the company’s imposition of security contractors on trains.

The ballot closes on 2 February.

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