By Sarah Bates
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Three strikes show coordinated power on railways

This article is over 6 years, 10 months old
Issue 2570
Pickets in Newcastle on Monday
Pickets in Newcastle on Monday (Pic: RMT)

Workers on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail trains have struck in coordinated action against plans to remove guards from trains.

The action involves members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

But in some areas members of the Aslef train drivers’ union refused to cross the picket line, making the strike even more effective.

At stake are bosses’ plans to bring in Driver Only Operation (DOO). This would take guards off trains.

Workers say this would make train travel unsafe and inaccessible for passengers, as well as causing job losses.

Workers at all three companies struck for 24 hours on Friday of last week.

Southern workers continued the action for a further three days. Merseyrail workers struck on Sunday and Monday, and Northern on Monday.

Southern workers have taken more than 30 days of strikes during the current dispute, with picket lines in London Victoria and Brighton.


RMT general secretary Mick Cash said “It is now time for transport secretary Chris Grayling and this minority government to stop the great British rail rip-off.”

He called for Grayling to “end the wholesale destruction of rail safety culture and force his private contractors back to the negotiating table.”

The strikes have caused disruption. But the bosses need to feel more pressure.

Victor, a Southern striker in London, told Socialist Worker, “The union isn’t doing enough. We are missing opportunities.

“When Waterloo was shut for three weeks we should have struck and caused chaos.

“We’re in the 18th month of the battle and the union has to step up the fight. Coordinated action is a step in the right direction but this should be a national dispute.”

Southern, Merseyrail and Northern are not the only companies that want DOO.

A strike ballot is already taking place at Greater Anglia. And, after South Western bosses failed to give a guarantee to maintain guards, a ballot is starting there too—days after the company took over the franchise.

Wider and harder-hitting action with solidarity from other rail unions is the way to win.

Cleaners strike looms

Cleaners in the RMT union working for Southern/GTR and Southeastern began strike ballots this week.

The disputes are over pay and working conditions.

The Southeastern workers are employed by contractor Wettons.

The other battle is with Churchill, contractors on GTR incorporating Southern, Thameslink and Great Northern.

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