RAIL WORKERS preparing to strike at the start of October across Arriva Rail Norther, Merseyrail, Greater Anglia and Southern to keep passengers safe must know that they have the support of the travelling public.
No matter what waffle the private train operators come up with — such as the rubbish claims that it’s about “who opens the doors” — the RMT and its members have always been clear that this is about ensuring the safety of passengers.
Their dogged determination to resist driver-only operation has forced a shift in the propaganda used by the privateers.
Now they claim that it’s just a game of semantics, that it doesn’t make a difference if the guards are rebadged as “on-board supervisors.”
But as soon as the guards are no longer classified as guards, with the safety-critical role that job entails, profit-hungry privateers can bring down the axe and leave hundreds of passengers reliant on just a single member of staff for their safety — while also driving the train.
At every step the rail workers have been shown to be correct to fight this battle now — if not now, it is lost.
And the motivation is clear for the vultures feasting on our privatised railway, allowing them to slash in half their wage bill for train staff.
And that is what it is all about. The objections don’t matter to to the privateers because there is money on the table and they want it all.
The breadth of the October action, across four franchises, shows that this fight is one that must be fought across the industry.
The tales of the vital role played by guards are endless.
Just this week we have seen the stories of the Merseyrail guard whose swift action calmed a terrified and distressed autistic boy, and another (also on Merseyrail) who stepped in to stop a “creep” harassing young women on a Saturday night service out of Liverpool.
Then there is the guard who saved a woman being sexually assaulted; another whose quick thinking after a car crash on a level crossing saved passengers’ lives; another who evacuated passengers when a landslide at Watford trapped the driver in the cab; and plenty of others where only the clear thinking and immediate action of guard and driver together have saved lives after derailments.
Guards are also essential to ensure that disabled people, particularly wheelchair users, can even get onto or off of the train.
The accounts of people being forced to literally drag themselves onto services as there was no guard to help — and obviously no station staff, having been made redundant by privateers — are a disgrace.
We have the skills, expertise and money to build a railway that is the envy of all.
Yet instead it is the laughing stock of Europe, as foreign often state-owned companies come here to run shoddy services and take home fat wodges of cash.
The guards’ fight is a symptom of the privatisation sickness afflicting our railway — a race to the bottom where only profit matters.
These courageous workers know how much is at stake, and they are prepared to fight tooth and nail for it.
They deserve our unstinting support and solidarity until victory is theirs.