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Wednesday 20th
posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

RMT members plan walkouts across four franchises to save safety-critical guards

BRITAIN’S chaotic privatised rail network is to be hit by the biggest wave of strike action since the Tories sold the industry off to profiteering private firms.

Rail union RMT announced yesterday that its members will strike across four franchises next month over the same issue – the removal of safety-critical guards from trains.

Two 24-hour stoppages will take place on Southern, Greater Anglia, Northern and Merseyrail on Tuesday October 3 and Thursday October 5 in protest at employers’ cost-cutting drive to make all trains driver-only operated.

RMT members at the four companies have voted overwhelmingly for strike action.

The push by privateers and ministers for driver-only operation ignores the evidence of guards’ vital role in keeping passengers safe and saving lives, especially after derailments and collisions.

Only this month, a Merseyrail guard rescued a six-year-old autistic boy who was terrified by chanting football fans on a packed train. The guard gave the boy and his mother shelter in her cabin.

RMT called the planned removal of guards from trains “a clear threat to passenger safety.”

The driver-only dispute at Southern began in April last year and is now one of Britain’s longest-running industrial conflicts. Frustrated passengers have staged demonstrations against rocketing fares and operator Govia Thameslink Railway’s refusal to provide a good service and negotiate with unions.

Southern has even fined passengers forced to stand in first-class areas by overcrowding in standard class.

At Greater Anglia, guards voted for strike action by nine to one on a 90 per cent turnout.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said the union was “bitterly disappointed” that Southern and the Department for Transport continue to reject the union’s call for negotiations.

“The failure to get those talks moving following our face-to-face meeting with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has left us no option but to call further action,” Mr Cash said.

Meanwhile “Greater Anglia have been given every opportunity to give a guarantee on the future role of the guard on their services. They have failed to do so and that left us with no alternative but to move to a ballot in the interests of rail safety.”

At Merseyrail, he said bosses had “refused all reasonable efforts” to settle the driver-only dispute.

And Mr Cash also accused Arriva-owned Northern of showing “sheer intransigence” by refusing to negotiate.

Taxpayers subsidised Britain’s private train operators to the tune of £3.2 billion last year.