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4 July 2017
Support the Merseyrail strikes against driver-only operation
Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party regional secretary
The Labour-run 'Liverpool city region transport committee' which oversees the local Merseyrail train service still intends to take guards off the trains and introduce 'driver-only operation'. This is putting the profits of the train operator ahead of the safety of the travelling public.
We support the guards' trade union, the RMT, taking 24-hour strike action against this on 8, 10 and 23 of July. Huge support exists for the guards' resistance to their removal, despite the intimidation and propaganda by the Merseyrail management and the Labour councillors involved.
We need a massive mobilisation to support the guards and demand that local Labour politicians drop their guard-cutting plans. We urge all readers on Merseyside to visit the picket lines to show your support, any time from 4am through the day, at Birkenhead Central, Liverpool Kirkdale depot, Liverpool Lime Street and Southport.
Labour's general election manifesto supported the renationalisation of the railways, albeit in a piecemeal manner. So why are Merseyside Labour councillors so determined to press ahead with driver-only operation, a policy based on privatisation and profiteering, not on public ownership?
The Socialist Party opposes all cutbacks and fragmentation of the rail network. We call for the renationalisation of the railways under the democratic control and management of rail-workers and the travelling public. A socialist transport policy is the only way to meet the needs of people and the environment, based on a massive and sustainable expansion of public transport.
An RMT member on Merseyrail told the Socialist: "This dispute has now been going on for five months. At the heart of the dispute is the fight to keep guards on all Merseyrail trains so passengers can feel safe in the knowledge that a highly trained, safety-critical person is aboard their train and he or she can take control of any eventuality which may occur during their journey.
"This dispute isn't about who opens or closes train doors, this dispute is about keeping a second safety-critical member of staff on every train from origin to destination and from start to end of service. In a recent survey 89% of Merseyrail passengers stated they want to keep guards on trains but unfortunately Merseyrail has chosen to ignore that fact and they've continued on their march towards driver-only operation."
A "force majeure" exists within Merseyrail's franchise agreement with Merseytravel which prevents Merseyrail from losing out financially through any type of industrial action it may face. With this "force majeure" in existence the hard-working taxpayers of Merseyside foot the bill for a company which makes a annual profit of £17 million! The company therefore thinks it does not have to engage in any dialogue with the RMT. But this strike action will show that workers won't accept this lying down.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 4 July 2017 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.