Socialist Worker

Bosses who plunged railways into chaos blame the unions that fought back

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2560

Sack Southern, not guards, say protesting RMT union members

Sack Southern, not guards, say protesting RMT union members (Pic: Guy Smallman)


As rail unions announced new strikes, a long-buried report by former Virgin Trains executive Chris Gibb blamed them for the mess at Southern rail.

Gibb was paid £1,500 a day to lead a “hit squad” for Tory transport secretary Chris Grayling.

His report, finally released last week after a seven month delay, blamed trade unions as the “primary cause” of the woeful Southern service.

It argues that trade unionists are responsible for cutting accessible travel for disabled people, cancelling thousands of services and underinvestment in rail infrastructure for years.

Bosses and politicians are the ones to blame for the “poor and unreliable” condition of railways.

Southern passengers filing for a judicial review on Thursday against the Department for Transport (DfT) see things quite differently to Gibb.

Many people are wondering if this was all that Gibb wrote.

RMT rail union general secretary Mick Cash said, “No wonder the government have sat on the Gibb report for seven months. It’s taken them that long to slice and fillet it into a document that they can spin up as an attack on the unions and the staff.”

Bosses at Govia Thameslink Railway, Southern’s owners, along with the DfT, have orchestrated the dispute with unions on Southern. It revolves around axing the role of guards, extending what’s called driver only operation (DOO).

Disputes over extending DOO, a Tory government priority, are spreading to other networks.

Unions rightly argue that this undermines safety.

Meanwhile, bosses keep claiming that an “independent” rail safety body, Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), had given DOO a clean bill of health.

But Govia boss Charles Horton is one of RSSB’s ten non-executive directors.

Just three of those directors are described by RSSB itself as “independent”.

It has now been revealed that a senior RSSB official in charge of “a major piece of research” looking at how to “significantly extend the coverage” in 2014 of DOO was working “on behalf of RDG rail safety and ultimately DfT”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is right to call for renationalisation.

Socialist Worker fully backs rail workers fighting back against DOO and defending safe and accessible train travel for all.


Strike dates announced

The release of the report came as unions announced more industrial action

  • A coordinated strike of RMT members on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail is set for 10 July
  • Merseyrail workers were also set to strike on 8 and 23 July, while Northern workers were set to walkout on 8 and 9 July
  • Aslef union members on Southern have reinstated an overtime ban and were set to ballot for strikes

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