Socialist Worker

Strikes on six lines as train guards fight on

Issue No. 2585

RMT members on a protest about fare hikes

RMT members on a protest about fare hikes (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Twenty five years since rail privatisation began, passengers face huge fare increases, poor service and bosses axing vital staff. But there is also resistance and a new round of coordinated strikes.

The RMT transport union called protests at dozens of train stations on Tuesday to highlight recent fare hikes.

The union says that fares have “increased at five times the rate of public sector pay awards and at twice the speed of average earnings since 2010”.

Many workers are facing a real term pay cut, and the average commuter pays over 10 percent of their net income on fares.

But train company bosses are set to take home millions in wages and bonuses.

Stagecoach was recently bailed out of its Virgin East Coast franchise by the Tories.

Meanwhile, Stagecoach boss Marin Griffiths can look forward to a pay package of up to £2.5 million.

But workers are fighting back—they are entering the third year in the battle to keep guards on the trains. Fresh strike dates have been called on Northern, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia, South Western Railways and Island Line for 8, 10 and 12 January.

Workers on Southern will strike on 8 January.

Defending

And RMT members on Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and South Western networks presented bosses with a wave of 24 hour strikes around Christmas.

It’s part of a long-running dispute against the implementation of driver only operation (Doo) on trains and defending the safety critical role of the guards.

Merseyrail workers struck on 22 December, with some members of the Aslef drivers’ union refusing to cross RMT picket lines.

The extension of Doo across rail networks is driven by the bosses’ greed and the Tories’ support for privatisation and deregulation.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash accused “the dead hand of the minority Tory government” of “interfering in these disputes.’’

The union has released a short film called Unguarded that explores how important guards are in making travel accessible and safe.

RMT members at South Western struck on Sunday 31 December, hitting Waterloo—one of the busiest stations in England.

RMT has also identified 141 stations that are currently unstaffed on the South Western network. They say without guards, these stations will become dangerous.

The fight over pay is still on. RMT and TSSA union members on the Virgin West Coast line struck for 24 hours on Friday 15 December. They were offered a deal just days later.

The 1,800 onboard train staff are fighting for an equal pay offer to that made for drivers.

An RMT striker told Socialist Worker that bosses were “determined to make as much profit as they can”.

The new deal guarantees a 35 hour week, a £500 lump sum and 3.2 percent increase. The unions suspended further planned strikes on 22 December and 5 January for members to vote on it.

Everyone should support the workers fighting back against rail bosses out to drive down pay and undermine safety.

Coordinated strikes is the way to beat the bosses—workers on other networks should join the fight to save the role of the guard.


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