Socialist Worker

Reports round up—Southern rail dispute, housing campaigns and abortion rights

Issue No. 2541

Why was there no second worker on these trains?

A ballot of nearly 1,000 Southern train drivers on a controversial deal to end a dispute over the removal of guards from trains was due to end on Thursday this week.

Aslef union officials have recommended the deal that accepts the extension of driver only operation (DOO).

But some drivers have spoken out against it.

The train guards’ union RMT was set to begin talks with Southern bosses this week over its dispute over DOO and the question of how much safety training the “onboard supervisor” role that replaces guards will have.

New figures provided by rail workers and passengers have shown that an average of three trains a day during a recent two-week period did not even have a second staff member on board.

This is the equivalent of 1,000 journeys a year that any passengers requiring assistance—such as disabled people or older people—would not have received it.

This is despite repeated assurances from bosses that this would not be the case. It is also supposedly a key element to the deal struck with Aslef officials.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “Our members think instances of driver-only trains are increasing.”

RMT is now also in dispute with Arriva Rail North and preparing to ballot for industrial action over its failure to guarantee the future of the safety-critical role of the guard during a recent meeting.

Copeland council strikers confront the fat cat mayor

Workers at Copeland Council in Cumbria who work in services including benefits, revenues and customer services were set to strike on Thursday of this week over the impact of service cuts made by Independent mayor Mike Starkie.

Many workers have been made redundant over the past two months. Their union Unison said this is causing stress for remaining workers and delays for benefit claimants, and is storing up future problems for the council.

Workers held a half-day strike in December.

Unison organiser Jenny Martin said, “Starkie is not employing enough staff to do the job and there is an urgent need for more resources.

“While council staff have seen their real wages fall in recent years, Mayor Starkie has enjoyed a 67 percent pay rise since he became mayor.”

Fight against eviction threatened by a charity

Local housing campaigners gathered last Thursday and on Monday of this week as East London Unite union community branch protested on behalf of a tenant facing eviction.

Osmond James has lived at a hostel run by the charity Branches for over two years since becoming homeless.

The charity expects him to find a permanent home.

But soaring prices, huge deposits and high rents make it very difficult.

He is now threatened with eviction.

Supporters from Unite met the charity last week to put the case that the eviction should be stopped.

But the charity appears to be more interested in meeting turnover targets for funding from the local council.

Unite is funding local unemployed centres so that people can organise at community and local level.

Osmond is part of the Stand up for Your Rights campaign group that Unite is spearheading.

Now step up the pressure after another Tory attack on housing

Axe the Housing Act campaign activists are meeting this weekend to plan the next stages in the campaign against the Housing and Planning Act.

They will also discuss the response to the Tories’ new Housing White Paper, released last week.

The new legislation includes measures by the Tories to drop a key part of the Housing and Planning Act—compulsory starter homes targets. As the government moves towards implementing the Act, set to be in effect by April, the campaign will plan the next March for Homes. Last year’s brought 10,000 people onto the streets.

Axe The Housing Act meeting Saturday 18 February, 11am-1pm, Unite offices, 128 Theobalds Road London, WC1X 8TN.
A screening of a film about the 1960 St Pancras rent strike takes place at the Marx Memorial Library in London on 23 February at 7pm

New challenges in the battle for abortion rights

Up to 60 activists from across Britain came together for the Abortion Rights AGM and public meeting on Saturday.

The meeting was addressed by Dilys Cossey from the Abortion Law Reform Association, human rights campaigning lawyer Caoilfhionn Gallagher, and speakers from Abortion Rights.

A key focus of the discussion was how to support the campaign to repeal the

8th amendment in Ireland (see page 17) and how to mobilise against US president Donald Trump.

There was also discussion about how to ensure women in Northern Ireland could receive the NHS abortion services they are entitled to.

A trade unionist from Camden Unison talked about raising funds for Abortion Rights through her union branch.

2017 is an important year for reproductive justice as campaigners celebrate 50 years since the 1967 Act that legalised abortion.

They are also organising how to protect and extend a woman’s right to choose today.

At the meeting there was a real focus on unity among activists. It was an inspiring meeting setting up the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.

Sarah Bates

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