Socialist Worker

Strike northbound as guards keep rolling

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2544

RMT union members on the picket line during the last round of guards strikes (Pic: Socialist Worker)

RMT union members on the picket line during the last round of guards' strikes (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The extension of driver only operation (DOO)—central to the strikes on Southern rail—is set to spread to Northern and Merseyrail next Monday.

RMT union members at the three rail firms were set to stage coordinated strikes to defend the role of the train guard and rail safety.

Northern and Merseyrail workers have launched new disputes. At Southern, Monday will be the 30th guards’ strike in a year-long battle with owners Govia Thameslink Railway.

The guards have faced bullying, intimidation, lies and collusion between bosses and the Tory government in their fight for safety.

But their resistance has been a spanner in the works.

The strikes come as the transport giant behind Southern issued a profit warning to shareholders. Bosses again attempted to blame the woeful service on workers, who responded by calling new strikes.

Warned

Last week Govia’s parent firm, Go Ahead Group, warned that it could be £15 million worse off.

This is because Govia’s claim that daily delays and cancellations are due to “unofficial industrial action” has so far been unsuccessful.

Now it may not avoid financial penalties from the government.

Tory ministers are sympathetic—after all, they hired Govia to go to war with the unions. But the fact the DfT has kept its long overdue decision secret isn’t a good sign for Brown’s shareholders.

Passengers on Southern Railway last year suffered a train cancellation every nine minutes according to shocking new figures.

There were 58,983 cancellations on Southern in 2016. The firm runs 2,284 services on a normal weekday.

It’s the bosses who are to blame for Southern’s poor service.

The three-day drivers’ strike in 2016 represents 11.5 percent of total cancellations that year.

And during the guards’ 25 strike days last year bosses claimed 60 percent of the normal timetable operated. That could account for 39 percent of 2016 cancellations, if strikes were to blame.

Winning passengers over to the dispute. GTR is running the service into the ground

Winning passengers over to the dispute. GTR is running the service into the ground (Pic: Socialist Worker)


The real figure will be much lower. It’s the bosses who are to blame for Southern’s poor service.

From July to October Southern ran an “emergency timetable” when bosses cut 341, or 15 percent, of daily services themselves.

Their failure to employ enough staff to run trains lies at the heart of the daily disruption. But their dirty tricks on behalf of the Tories have also played a part too—cancelling trains when train crew were available being just one example.

In short, there has been an orchestrated campaign to crush workers’ resistance on Southern and drive down workers’ terms and conditions.

Strings

The Tories pulled the strings as other rail fat cats got ready to roll out the attack.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “When Britain’s private rail companies talk about modernisation we know that what they really mean is hacking back on jobs and passenger safety in the drive for fatter profits.”

That’s why every worker and trade unionist needs to support the strikes at Southern, Northern and Merseyrail.

Bosses have used the anti-union laws and sought to drive a wedge between the unions whenever possible. Workers’ unity can overcome this as the fight to push back DOO spreads to other networks.


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