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Wednesday 13th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

RMT opens new front in the fight against unsafe transport

GUARDS on yet another rail network smashed the Tories’ anti-strike thresholds yesterday, voting to down ticket-punchers against driver-only trains by a massive nine-to-one margin.

Rail union RMT also recorded a turnout of 90 per cent in its ballot of Greater Anglia guards.

The union balloted both drivers and guards for industrial action after Greater Anglia’s parent company, the Dutch state-owned Abellio, failed to guarantee that guards’ positions would be maintained.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “That left us with no alternative but to move to a ballot in the interests of rail safety. Our members have now voted by massive majorities for action.

“It’s now down to the company to wake up and take note and to seize the opportunity to give us the very simple assurances on the future of the guards and the guarantee of a second safety-critical member of staff on current services.

“The union remains available for further talks around the crucial issue of the guard guarantee.”

RMT has been fighting plans to expand driver-only operation on a number of Britain’s privatised railway networks. The union fears the move will compromise safety and lead to job losses.

RMT president Sean Hoyle told delegates at TUC Congress that a passenger who sounded the emergency alarm on train toilets had been told via a tannoy announcement to “get off at the next stop” — because there was no guard on board to assist.

Mr Hoyle said: “We will not give up this fight.”

TSSA delegate Jill Murdoch warned that station staff were also at risk. She said the railway was becoming “purely about providing profits to owners and dividends to shareholders” and said both passengers and staff would suffer.

The Conservatives had attempted to shackle unions by imposing an additional threshold for industrial action on so-called critical public services.

As well as the new requirement of a 50 per cent turnout in ballots, unions organising health, emergency, school and transport staff must also get 40 per cent of eligible workers to vote in favour of strikes.

Workers on Southern Rail have been striking against driver-only operation for more than a year. Northern and Merseyrail guards have also walked out over the issue, and RMT is balloting workers on the new South Western Railway.