Unions are opening a second front against the Tories’ favourite rail firm, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR). It runs the ailing Southern railway franchise as well as Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.
Station staff across the GTR empire are set to strike for 24 hours on Wednesday of next week. They join train guards on Southern who had already called a two-day strike from that date. They are RMT union members.
The station staff are fighting ticket office cutbacks and a major shake-up of stations. GTR wants to close ticket offices or limit them to morning peak hours only at 83 of its stations.
It is also introducing a new multi-functional role of “station host”. These workers will be expected to sell tickets, help passengers with ticket machines, operate the barriers and take on cleaning and security duties—all in the same shift.
RMT estimates this will cut at least 130 jobs.
“This is just the first phase of the company’s plan,” the union said. “Dispatchers and barrier staff will also be affected by the company’s cost cutting measures in the near future.”
This is part of what GTR bosses and the Tories call “modernisation”.
So is getting rid of train guards and extending driver only operation (DOO), which provoked the strikes on Southern. In this increasingly bitter dispute, bosses want rid of the guards and refuse to negotiate on anything but their plans.
Southern passenger services director Alex Foulds said his mind is “open” only “to all options that lead to the implementation of our proposal” to get rid of train guards.
The last strike was suspended midway through for talks “without preconditions” that collapsed within days.
Many union activists believed it was wrong to suspend action with no real gains.
One told Socialist Worker he was “totally against” doing the same again as it will make the union “look weak”. Another said, “I hope they don’t repeat the previous mistake again.”
Rail workers and supporters are gearing up to protest at the Scottish parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh, during first minister’s questions on Thursday 8 September.
The RMT union organised the demonstration. It is calling for the Scottish National Party (SNP) government to intervene in its dispute with Abellio Scotrail.
Scotrail still wants drivers to take responsibility for dispatching trains, undermining safety and the role of train guards.
Strikes planned this month were suspended for talks with bosses but no agreement has been reached on the crucial issue of who dispatches the train.
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