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Massive attack on the tracks

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Issue 1687


Massive attack on the tracks

RAIL WORKERS are facing a big battle. The RMT union has taken the unusual step of writing to every overhead line (OHL) member in the country. OHL workers carry out essential and dangerous repairs to the rail infrastructure. The RMT letter warns of a joint venture between the GT Rail Maintenance (GTRM) company and construction firm Balfour Beatty to modernise the West Coast Main Line.

GTRM already has responsibility for maintaining the West Coast Main Line. The two companies, having won the lucrative contract, have declared the project a “greenfield site”. Balfour Beatty will take on half the new workforce, with the other half going to GTRM. The companies will operate as though the existing agreements with the RMT union do not exist.

The bosses have signed a “sweetheart deal” with the AEEU union. New staff will be taken on with vastly inferior pay and conditions. The RMT rightly fears that “once the west coast has been modernised these staff will have been trained to stay and maintain the overhead line. There will no longer be a need to continue to employ existing staff on higher pay and better conditions.”

The RMT was due to hold a meeting this weekend of all OHL workers throughout the country to discuss what action to take.

  • THE RMT has called off a planned series of strikes by train guards after reaching an agreement with privatised rail companies.

The dispute was triggered by managers’ plans to scale down guards’ safety responsibilities.

Sarah Friday

RAIL WORKERS based at London’s Waterloo are balloting for strike action in defence of train driver and RMT union activist Sarah Friday. Sarah was sacked on trumped-up charges by South West Trains. The real reason behind Sarah’s dismissal was her excellent record as a health and safety rep. Socialist Worker talked to Waterloo RMT branch secretary GREG TUCKER about the issues surrounding Sarah’s fight for reinstatement:

“SARAH HAD her appeal last Wednesday, but she remains sacked. The strike ballot closes on 14 March. The fight is on to defend anyone attempting to deal with safety on the rail. The government is supposed to be introducing a scheme to protect “whistleblowers” and a safety “hot line” after crashes like Paddington and Southall. Yet look what happened to Sarah. She was a “nuisance” as far as the company was concerned, so they got rid of her. There is a conflict between management’s profit making and safety on the railways. We had a brilliant protest for Sarah on Waterloo station last week. A few years ago if we had done that the commuters would have gone berserk. In fact, we got a good reception. John Prescott and Frank Dobson are trying to make out that tube privatisation will be different, but we know it’s all going to be repeated.”

  • Messages of support to Sarah Friday, c/o 3 Blades House, London SE11 5TW. Fax 020 7207 3781.
  • Greg Tucker is a candidate for the London Socialist Alliance in the May elections.

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