Socialist Worker

The battle for safety is on at South Western Railway as workers stage strikes

by Sarah Bates
Issue No. 2618

Picketing at Waterloo station last Saturday

Picketing at Waterloo station last Saturday (Pic: RMT/Twitter)


Rail workers are still fighting to stop transport bosses axing guards from services.

RMT union members on South Western Railway (SWR) have so far struck for five days in August, including last Saturday.

They are due to walk out again this Saturday and next Monday.

Workers on Northern—owned by Arriva Rail North—planned to join the action and strike on Saturday this week, 1 and 8 September.

They are rejoining the fray after negotiations about the role of the guard broke down and fresh strike days were called.

The action involves conductors, conductor instructors and train drivers. Bosses want to roll out more Driver Only Operated (DOO) services.

But these services threaten the future of guards, or similar onboard staff, who ensure train travel is safe and accessible for all.

Emergencies

DOO trains mean that emergencies such as evacuations, driver incapacity, fires or derailment could end in complete disaster. And guards can help passengers with disabilities to embark and disembark safely—without this assistance many would simply be unable to travel.

Strikers are fighting for a guarantee that a second safety-critical trained member of staff will be on board at all times.

But bosses have only offered assurances of DOO trains running with guards—and their promises come with caveats that allow bosses to run trains without guards if there aren’t enough staff.

Train bosses are desperate to roll out DOO because it is cheaper for them, and it undermines the principle of passenger and worker safety.

Strikers should be supported in their struggle for a transport system that is fit for purpose.


RMT members at Exterion Media, the firm that does advertising on public transport networks, are to ballot for strikes over pay. The union says that members have been offered a “derisory pay offer”.


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