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Rail strikes over safety aren’t stopping

This article is over 4 years, 9 months old
Issue 2550
Pickets in Leeds last month
Pickets in Leeds last month (Pic: Neil Terry)

More coordinated rail strikes to defend the role of the train guard have been announced by the RMT rail union.

Its members on the Northern and East Coast networks are set to walk out together on Friday of next week, with East Coast workers striking again the following day.

These will be the latest walkouts in a series of disputes over bosses’ attack on safety that also includes Southern rail and Merseyrail.

The extension of driver only operation (DOO), bringing in new trains and bosses’ refusals to guarantee the role of the train guard is what lies behind the strikes.

The RMT said imposed changes at East Coast have created “a chaotic shambles” with “untrained staff forced into roles and the whole train crew left to work it out for themselves”.

Workers fear the changes could be preparing for DOO in the future.


On Northern Rail, strikes have hit bosses hard, who have struggled to maintain even a quarter of the normal services. When workers on both Northern and Merseyrail struck on 8 April it brought Liverpool to a standstill.

Merseyrail is accountable to Merseytravel, a regional transport authority that will answer to the new Liverpool “metro mayor” elected on 4 May. RMT general secretary Mick Cash called on Labour’s candidate Steve Rotherham to back the union’s fight.

Cash said, “Merseyrail is Britain’s most profitable train-operating company, yet is paying absolutely nothing towards the new fleet, and it could easily afford to retain guards and still make a substantial and growing profit.

“Merseyrail has a contractual clause that forces local taxpayers to foot the bill for the dispute, when that money could be used to finance a solution to it.”

The Merseyrail clause is not unique. Many if not all the rail operators have some kind of insurance policy like this backed by public money.

It’s time to renationalise, and take our rail back from the fat cats.

Action stalled on Woolwich Ferry

The Unite union suspended a planned walkout by ferry workers in Woolwich, south east London, on Tuesday.

A further walkout, planned for this Friday, could go ahead depending on talks between the union and bosses on Thursday.

Workers are fighting over allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, and serious health and safety concerns.

Workers in both the Unite and GMB union held successful walkouts in January and February.

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