A NATIONAL protest in support of guards on Southern Rail will take place in Parliament today after the RMT dubbed the “gross mismanagement” of the franchise a “shambles.”
Opponents of the rail firm’s bid to get rid of guards will assemble at 12.30pm in Old Palace Yard before a rally inside Parliament from 2pm with speakers including RMT general secretary Mick Cash, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes, Labour MP Andy McDonald and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas.
Mr Cash has issued a call to Transport Minister Chris Grayling “to get out of his bunker, get hold of the Southern management and get round the table” to resolve the long-running dispute.
The RMT is concerned over the “impact on safety, security and disability access” with Southern “bulldozing through the drive towards wholesale driver-only operation (DOO) without agreement.”
The union has accused bosses of “intransigence” and slammed “their cheerleaders in government, who are pulling the strings in this dispute.”
The latest strike action is scheduled for Thursday. Mr Cash said that while the RMT is “available for serious talks,” the action will be going ahead and the fight for safe services on Southern Rail will continue.
A Southern Rail ultimatum over a £2,000 “bribe” payment to workers has been rejected by the union.
The RMT has said that it will not “sell out” the safety of its members and the public.
The National Pensioners Convention and Disabled People Against Cuts have warned that the removal of guards may make trains unusable for people with limited mobility.
And when approached by industry magazine Modern Railways on how it would assist a wheelchair user on a driver-only operated train, one company not named by the journal — reportedly responded: “The good thing would be that all of the regular passengers would still be carried, it would only be the wheelchair users who wouldn’t be able to travel.”
Mr Cash said: “Earlier this month the transport select committee exposed the ongoing shambles that is Southern Rail and the blind eye that has been turned by the government to gross mismanagement of this franchise on an industrial scale.
“The select committee called on the government to engage in talks with the company and the union. That call has been ignored.
“[Today’s] demonstration and rally will be a chance to show not only RMT’s opposition to Southern-GTR’s profit-motivated drive to get rid of guards on trains but also to hear from those who will be most affected by the proposed cuts, including pensioners and the disabled.”