Posted 23rd October 2018 | 3 Comments

Five more days of SWR strikes start

THE first of five further strikes by RMT members on South Western Railway is under way.

The walkouts are now set to continue for the rest of this week, and unless there is progress in talks over the on-train staffing dispute further strikes have been announced for all four Saturdays in November.

The RMT says it is faced with a ‘threat to axe guards and roll out driver only operation’, although SWR has responded that ‘our growth plans mean more guards, not fewer’.

Talks intended to resolve the dispute and end the stoppages have foundered repeatedly.

A reduced service is running on most SWR routes during the strikes, although there are no services on the Hampton Court and Shepperton branches, and SWR trains are also not running north of Salisbury and Yeovil to Bath and Bristol via Westbury. Island Line is not affected.

A South Western Railway spokesperson said: ‘The RMT is cynically targeting hard-working commuters, families trying to enjoy the half-term holidays and sports fans with its latest strike dates.

‘We have guaranteed a guard to be rostered on every single service, and our growth plans mean more guards, not fewer. It is time for the union to stop spreading myths and causing misery to our customers and colleagues, and commit to resolving this dispute. We will do everything we can to keep our customers moving.’

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said his members were ’solidly supporting’ the new walkouts.

He continued: ‘South Western Railway have deliberately stalled the talks process and slammed the door on union calls to negotiate around the guard guarantee which matches the widespread best practice in the industry. This dispute is about safety, security and access on South Western Railway while the company look to open up a loophole that would allow them to run services driver only at their discretion.

‘Recent figures have shown a shocking a surge in violence on our railways; it is frankly appalling that South Western Railway are looking for a green light to throw the guard off their trains as and when they see fit in the name of profit, regardless of the consequences. SWR might think it’s acceptable to play fast and loose with passenger safety, security and access but RMT members, who have stood firm throughout this dispute despite appalling harassment from the company, will not accept a dilution of the safety regime on the railway.

‘There's a simple solution to ‎this dispute and it means SWR stop playing with words and negotiate the guard guarantee that reflects the safety values of the agreements RMT has pinned down in other parts of the rail industry. South Western Railway should get out of the bunker and start talking with us seriously.’

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Jeremy Milton, Manchester

    The RMT couldn't care less about passenger safety. It is all about union muscle and easy work for lazy RMT members - hidden away fiddling with door buttons instead of checking tickets etc.

  • Andrew Gwilt, Benfleet Essex

    South Western Railway themselves are becoming a joke with allowing to have strikes to happen. Since they took over from Stagecoach South West Trains last year. They are just like Arriva Northern Trains who are also having strikes all the time. What is going on with these rail operators that are allowing strikes to continue.

  • Neil Palmer, Waterloo

    Here's a radical idea. Mick's not happy with more guards and dues paying members for expanded services and is afraid of a loophole allowing SWR to run a service without a guard in exceptional services.

    Now we know Mick and the RMT don't really give a toss about inconveniencing passengers (or their safety for that matter - everyone knows this is really about union power to disrupt services whenever they want to strike) but these would seem reasonable (well, maybe to anyone but the RMT, but in a negotiation there has to be some give and take on BOTH sides):

    1) The guard becomes ill/sick/injured (or has to 'help police with their inquiries') during a service and has to leave the train.

    In a case like this (which even Mick must admit would be very rare, and easily verified) instead of tossing all the passengers off and running the service empty anyway to its termination point let the service run without a guard. At the absolute minimum it should be agreed that passengers will not be tossed off a perfectly functioning train in the middle of nowhere, especially late at night or if they are on the last service of the day. The service must continue to its scheduled termination point, or at the very least to the next major interchange station where bus or other forward transport can be arranged within a reasonable time without needlessly leaving passengers to wait for hours.

    2) A guard is unavailable due to a major incident (fire/explosion/terrorist or security services action).
    Let the train run without the guard (again, this is going to be rare, and easily verified).

    Now to some situations that the RMT will no doubt consider more contentious, which would be:

    3) Guard delayed on inbound service (or traffic delay if travelling by road, etc.) and isn't at his starting point in time.

    4) Guard calls in sick within x hours of departure (a time period to be negotiated) and there is insufficient time to roster a replacement.

    These could obviously be abused and I'm sure the RMT is concerned about them. So how about for item 3 or 4 negotiating a fixed number of times per week or month that this could be used, with penalties imposed on the TOC if exceeded at the end of the period (who knows, donate a few thousand quid to the union's Xmas fund, favourite charity or something, for each incident in excess of the agreed number).
    This would prevent the TOC from abusing the privilege as each incident in excess of an agreed number would cost them more than the wages they'd save, and make them consider when to play this card. For example at Waterloo in the middle of rush hour, where one delayed train could disrupt hundreds of services and thousands upon thousands of passengers. Or for cases where this occurs on the last scheduled service on that route for the day.

    Which basically just leaves the elephant in the room:
    5) Running services without a guard in case of strike action.

    How about agreeing that in case of strike action the TOC can only continue to run services only if a second trained person is on board, whether they be someone from management or simply an RMT member who has had enough of striking and wants to return to work?

    How about that for a restarting point for negotiation?
    It's time SOMEONE gave consideration to the long suffering general public who pay fares to the TOC, and yes Mick, contribute to your members wages.