PLANS to draft in a “scab army” of managers to break a guards’ strike on Greater Anglia services pose a severe threat to passenger safety, rail union RMT warned yesterday.
General secretary Mick Cash has written to Abellio bosses and the Office of Road and Rail urging them to stop the “high-risk strike-breaking plan.”
In the letter, he highlights a recent potentially serious incident when a manager allegedly released train doors before the train had stopped.
Guards working at Greater Anglia voted nine-to-one for strike action on a 90 per cent turnout over plans to extend driver-only operated trains and get rid of safety-critical guards across the network.
They are set to walk out for two 24-hour stoppages on October 3 and 5 with strike action also taking place on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail over the same issue.
It is believed to be the biggest strike since the privatisation of Britain’s rail network and coincides with the Tory Party conference in Manchester next month.
Earlier this week Mr Cash said he was “bitterly disappointed” that the unions’ call for round-table talks involving all parties had been rejected and said it left no option but industrial action.
RMT remains committed to resolving the disputes, however Mr Cash warned: “This fiasco cannot be allowed to drag on any longer.”
In the letter, Mr Cash says he is aware of plans being put in place by Abellio bosses to minimise the effect of the strike, including providing training to non-safety-critical staff in a “desperate attempt to carry on running business as usual.”
He mentions an incident on the Ipswich to Lowestoft service earlier this week in which a manager in training was said to have opened doors before the train had stopped.
“I am, as usual, always concerned that your company is putting their business needs ahead of the prerogative to run a safe railway and that if you continue with these proposals there will be an incident that causes passenger harm on a strike day,” Mr Cash wrote.
He urged rail bosses to meet with RMT to resolve the dispute.
A Greater Anglia spokesperson said the staff that were being trained must pass competence, safety and medical tests before carrying out the conductor roles.
They said “no-one was put at risk” during the incident referred to by the RMT and denied the doors opened before the train was at the platform.