RMT general secretary Mick Cash, far left, slammed bosses for a breakdown in "industrial relations" (Pic: RMT)
Workers at three rail companies are going on strike or taking other forms of industrial action this week in separate disputes.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Arriva Rail North (Northern) walked out for 24 hours on Monday, and plan to strike again on Thursday, in the long-running row over the role of guards.
Strikers picketed across the north of England including in Newcastle, Carlisle, York, Manchester and Wigan.
There was a large and lively picket line outside Hull Paragon Interchange.
Representatives from the local trades council were flanked by an RMT union banner proclaiming, “This strike is all about safety.”
Strikers planned to continue picketing to cover afternoon shifts.
Some pickets talked about escalating the dispute. One said, “Maybe management didn’t expect us to stay so solid. Our stance is to keep striking.”
This dispute can’t be allowed to drag on. There has to be enough escalation to crack the bosses.
It matters because this is about safety as well as jobs and conditions.
RMT has repeatedly pointed out that the move by Arriva Rail North to expand Driver Only Operation will mean nearly half a million trains running annually without a safety-critical guard on board.
The company has been embroiled in a year-long argument with the union over staffing and guards, which is also affecting four other train operators, including South Western Railway (SWR).
RMT members on SWR will refuse to work rest days over the four day Easter weekend, starting on Friday, accusing the company of refusing to engage with the union.
Guards and drivers will also take further action over Easter by refusing to work in accordance with a restructuring deal.
SWR workers recently re-balloted on whether to continue the action as a result of the Tory anti-union laws. There was a 73 percent yes vote on a 63 percent turnout.
Meanwhile, talks will be held on Monday over a 48-hour stoppage by RMT members on London's Docklands Light Railway (DLR) following claims of a "comprehensive breakdown" in industrial relations.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, "Every single effort that RMT has made to reach a negotiated settlement with Northern Rail over safe operation and safe staffing has been kicked back in our faces.
"No one should be in any doubt, this dispute is about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies.
"Prime Minister Theresa May and transport secretary Chris Grayling are happy to stand aside and cheer on rail companies like Arriva that rip off passengers with eye-watering fare increases."
RMT members on the DLR are due to strike for 48 hours from 4am on Wednesday and for four days from 20 April, hitting the London Marathon on 22 April.
A national demonstration is set to mark the second anniversary of the bitter disputes over the role of guards and staffing on trains. RMT will stage a rally in London on 25 April, two years after the battle began on Southern rail.
The dispute spread across the country, and a series of strikes have now been held by RMT members at Southern, SWR, Greater Anglia, Merseyrail and Northern.
All these franchises should be revoked and the railways immmediately renationalised under democratic social control so that people come before profit.
Thanks to Wendy Dobbs
Talks on in Docklands Light Railway dispute
The RMT attended talks with Keolis Amey Docklands bosses at the Acas conciliation service on Monday.
RMT members on London’s Docklands Light Railway are in dispute over a range of issues. They planned to strike for 48 hours from 4am on Wednesday if the dispute is not resolved.
Workers also plan to strike between 4am on Friday
20 April and 3.59am on Tuesday 24 April.
The union said there has been a “comprehensive breakdown in industrial relations”.
Issues include attacks on rostering agreements, health and safety failures and outsourcing of jobs through the use of contractors.
Another step to a faceless railway
Govia Thameslink bosses confirmed on Monday that they had run the first fully automated passenger services through central London.
The RMT union said the news was “another step towards a faceless railway”.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said, “Not content with throwing the guards off their trains, Govia Thameslink Railway is now determined to diminish the role of the driver.
“There’s a clear pattern here. This isn’t about improving reliability and service quality for the public, it’s about maximising the profits of the private rail operator.”