Socialist Worker

Guards hit back with coordinated rail strike

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2549

Striking guards had a big impact on Grand National day in Liverpool

Striking guards had a big impact on Grand National day in Liverpool (Pic: RMT)


Coordinated rail strikes by around 2,000 workers on three networks has hit hard against bosses’ dangerous cost-cutting today, Saturday.

Guards in the RMT union struck on Merseyrail, Northern and Southern against the extension of driver-only operation (DOO) which guts their role.

At Manchester Piccadilly, Northern train guard Pete told Socialist Worker, “We’re just defending our jobs. They want to strip away the safety-critical part of the role so that once that's done they can cut our pay. It's all about them making more profit.”

Getting rid of guards puts passengers at risk, but it’s worth £350 million to the fat cats - if they can get away with it.

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Barely anything moved on Merseyrail as train drivers in the Aslef union drivers refused to cross the picket line. This kind of solidarity shows how to beat the bosses’ attack.

Up to 100 strikers and their supporters were on the steps of Liverpool Lime Street station. The predicted hostility from people wanting to travel to the Grand National didn't materialise, with many racegoers instead expressing their support.

Services were severely disrupted all across Northern, the biggest network in Britain in terms of geographical size.

Northern tried to put on a brave face, saying they expected to run around 35 percent of normal services. But north west RMT official Darren Ireland told Socialist Worker that 80 percent of Northern's services were cancelled.

He added, “There’s only a shuttle service for the Grand National out of Liverpool Lime Street and next to no other services on Merseyrail.”

Train operators are using every method to crush workers' resistance.

Darren accused bosses of “running fast and loose with safety” in their attempts to undermine the action by using managers and poorly trained staff to run services.

On Southern, guards were striking for the 31st time today in a year-long dispute. The company has tried to bully and victimise strikers and use anti-union laws to derail action.

But the guards have stood firm, and drivers have now voted down two deals to accept DOO.

In Wigan strikers organised to send a solidarity message to striking transport workers in Ireland.

In Wigan strikers organised to send a solidarity message to striking transport workers in Ireland. (Pic: Fred Fitton)


In Wigan strikers organised to send a solidarity message to striking transport workers in Ireland.

Strikers have a lot of support. Strikers in Leeds got a good reception as from 4am around 15 pickets handed out postcards to passengers.

In Sheffield the local NUJ union branch brought a solidarity donation to the pickets.

Pete in Manchester said, “One man, a passenger, came over to us and said if you're stopping people travelling today I'm happy to go away.”

Thirteen local councils have already opposed removing guards on Northern rail services.

But Darren was disappointed that Labour-run councils in the Merseyrail region are bringing in the new trains to operate without guards. He urged Labour members to work to oppose these plans.

Some pickets suggested more cooperation and joint action between Aslef and RMT.

Together rail workers have the power to defeat the rail bosses’ attack on jobs an safety—a cause everyone should support.

Thanks to everyone who sent in reports and pictures

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