Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/26656
Strike against driver-only operation on five rail networks
By a RMT member
We're barely into the new year and guards at five train operating companies are taking strike action in defence of railway safety.
While greedy bosses push forward with their plans to de-skill and then de-staff the railways in order to ratchet up their profit margins, RMT transport union members across the country are fighting back in one of the most bitter and resolute industrial struggles in recent times.
The Socialist Party salutes the RMT and the guards who have shown tremendous courage and resolve to retain the guarantee of a guard on our trains.
Fares continue to rise and yet profits are siphoned off and pocketed by shareholders. Most of the UK's rail operators are now foreign-owned, often subsidising rail operations abroad.
Instead of investing, the rail companies continue to attack workers - with guards in the firing line along with station staff and others who are treated like a luxury rather than a necessity.
Raking in more profit
As we start the new year, fares have increased by an average of 3.4% with season tickets soaring by 3.6%, yet rail companies are unwilling to commit to keeping guards on trains in the interests of passenger safety.
The Socialist Party calls for the whole of the railway network to be nationalised and run in the interests of the people and the environment, alongside buses and trams, as part of an integrated national public transport system - not simply bailed out to make them attractive to their profiteering owners.
While it is welcome that Jeremy Corbyn and other Labour Party figures support the guards, local Labour politicians don't seem to have get the message.
Merseyside Labour's Steve Rotheram and Joe Anderson have publicly stabbed the Merseyrail guards in the back while Labour councillors across northern England sit on their hands and fail to act while Northern Rail tries to do the guards in.
Jeremy Corbyn needs to bring these characters to heel and demand that they get behind the RMT or stand aside.
Furthermore, while he is right to stand for renationalisation of the railways he shouldn't wait for rail franchises to expire before doing it - this could take a decade or longer.
Coordinate and fight on
The disputes are now beginning to resemble a national dispute with all four corners of England affected in one way or another.
There is no doubt that the Tory government and the Department for Transport are tacitly supporting the attack on guards, hoping that they can land a defeat on the RMT. The bosses hope that once the guards are beaten they can move on to the other grades.
This is why it is vital that the RMT brings together guards from all of the companies in dispute at this present time along with reps from those which are not yet directly involved.
As franchises come up for renewal or change hands as has happened in December at London Midland/West Midlands Trains, talk is of the threat to the safety-critical role of the guard - the 'guard guarantee'.
There is now no time to lose in making sure that all union members are prepared and up for the fight.
The Socialist Party says:
- Keep a safety-critical guard on all trains - no to driver-only operation!
- Support the right to 'turn up and go' for vulnerable and disabled travellers. For a safe and fully accessible railway
- Renationalise the railways - with compensation only paid to those with proven need (ie none to profiteering rail bosses and fat cat shareholders!)