Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1010/27965
RMT strikers ready to up the ante over rail safety
Another round of coordinated strike action by the RMT transport workers' union against driver-only operation (DOO) - the removal of safety critical guards - on Arriva Rail North and South Western Railway took place on 15 September.
Socialist Party members joined picket lines in solidarity with the strikers. Here are their reports.
Hugh Caffrey spoke to Darren Ireland, RMT regional organisers, and Michelle Rogers, candidat for RMT president.
"Since 2010 there's been a concerted attack by Conservative-led governments on our members in the rail industry.
"We have a secretary of state for transport (Chris Grayling) who is a hardline neoliberal, intent on introducing the McNulty report across the industry, and it's our members and the trade unions who are standing against that.
The 2011 McNulty 'Value for Money' report called for driver-only operation to be the preferred mode of operation on all services, and also for RPI-rate (the higher index of inflation) pay awards no longer to be the norm, and for new terms and conditions for new starters.
On Arriva Rail North we've got the employer and Grayling saying they want 50% of trains to be driver-only operation by 2020. We are determined to stop them from cutting staffing and safety.
The Arriva Rail North franchise is an absolute shambles. We've had six months of abject chaos across northern England, and yet Grayling is having luxury lunches with his big business mates. His loyalties are to champagne and caviar!"
"Our members are resolute. On every Saturday strike the turnout is getting bigger, like the ballot on South West Railway where, on every return, the turnout increased.
We had 1,300 members on strike on Arriva Rail North at the start of the dispute, and we've got 1,300 now. There's no sign of any member giving up the fight for keeping our railways safe.
Crime is on the increase, the number of sexual assaults is increasing, and the only way to get that back down is a fully staffed, safe railway.
We're in this for the long haul. We know it's hurting Arriva Rail North. I've had driver-managers [who are working extra hours to break the strike] come up to me saying: 'Are you trying to ruin my marriage?'! If we have to up the ante, then we'll go for Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays.
It's time Arriva negotiated seriously, but as far as I'm concerned the only deal is one that keeps a second safety-critical person on every train.
That's the only way to keep a safe rail system but which Grayling and his ilk don't seem to be interested in."
Newcastle - 'It's about keeping passengers safe'
On 15 September RMT members were on their 27th day of strike action against DOO.
One of the strikers told the Socialist: "I've been a conductor for around eleven years, and I know what would have happened if I hadn't been on the train."
He had intervened, "when women have been attacked on the train, when someone jumped in front of a train, also when kids have been on the track - I've had to physically get them off."
The guard on the train is essential in the ability to look out for passengers who are less able. "Whether that's helping someone elderly with their luggage, helping someone disabled getting on and off the train, or simply helping someone who doesn't travel regularly who needs a bit of advice about their journey."
"This isn't a strike about our pay. We're striking for the ability to keep passengers safe."
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Pompey strikers determined to win
Chris Pickett, Portsmouth Unison local government branch secretary (personal capacity)
Taking their tenth day of strike action in the current dispute with South Western Railway (SWR), pickets at Fratton, Portsmouth, were buoyed up by the excellent re-ballot result, the support of local trade unionists, and the regular visit from Sean Hoyle, Portsmouth RMT member and union national president.
The 88% vote in favour of strike action on a 71% turnout sends a strong message to SWR management that RMT members are determined to win.
SWR management struggled to run trains, despite £250 bonuses on offer and management putting scabs up in hotels and running them around in taxis.
Portsmouth Trade Union Council sent a delegation to the picket line and presented a donation of £100. Local council workers in Unison and civil servants in PCS also gave solidarity.
We have launched an appeal to raise money for the RMT hardship fund through the National Shop Stewards Network to ensure further action can be sustained.
Every trade unionist and their family use the railways, the RMT are fighting for our safety and theirs - it's a fight every trade unionist must support.
Pickets were pleased to see the coverage of their fight in the Socialist alongside reports from the other disputes on Merseyrail and Northern.
In The Socialist 19 September 2018:
Labour Party conference
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns