Socialist Worker

United national action can derail Tory assault on train unions and safety

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2563

Workers protesting against attacks on safety last year

Workers protesting against attacks on safety last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers have announced fresh strikes that will shut down the Southern rail network.

The Aslef and RMT unions have called strikes for 1, 2 and 4 August.

They are not only over pay. The Tory plot to undermine safety and stoke a long-running battle on Southern is the backdrop to the walkouts.

The government hit Govia Thameslink Railway with a £13.4 million fine for its poor Southern service last week—but only because a High Court judge ordered it to.

The Department for Transport (DfT) had refused to act for over a year.

It will use the fine to fund “improvements”, including 50 on-board supervisors.

This is the role imposed on Southern train guards that provoked strikes in the first place. Govia is unsurprisingly “pleased”.

The firm said the Gibb Report showed that “industrial action” is the main reason for Southern’s poor service.


The Gibb Report was written by former Virgin Trains executive Chris Gibb. His consultancy firm CLGR Limited was “contracted to Govia Thameslink Railway, as facilitated by the DfT” he admitted in the report.

Tory rail minister Paul Maynard said the team that assessed Govia is “within the command” of top DfT official Peter Wilkinson.

Wilkinson is in charge of rail franchising.

When Govia was awarded the contract, he owned a large share in a consultancy that was advising the firm.

The Tories’ determination to drive through driver only operation (DOO) is provoking more disputes.

Train guards and driver members of the RMT union at Abellio plan to ballot for action. Greater Anglia bosses have failed to give a guarantee on the role of the guard throughout the length of the franchise.

On the South West franchise new consortium First MTR has refused to honour a written commitment not to extend DOO or threaten guards’ jobs and roles.

Rail unions must coordinate all these disputes into a national fight.

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