West Midlands Trains, photo Rob Hodgkins/CC

West Midlands Trains, photo Rob Hodgkins/CC   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Tom Woodcock

89% of senior conductors (guards) have voted for strike action over West Midlands Trains plans to downgrade the role and remove key safety responsibilities.

RMT members smashed the Tories’ undemocratic ballot threshold, returning the vote on a 78% turnout. An indication of the mood to fight was at a packed-out Birmingham rail branch meeting in August when members unanimously supported a resolution which called for the union leadership to deliver a straightforward ultimatum to the company: guarantee a fully trained senior conductor on every train with control over the doors or we will ballot our members for action.

The company failed to provide this reassurance so the members were balloted and delivered a crystal-clear mandate for action in defence of the grade.

Management promise that although guards will lose the door controls and their crucial role in train dispatch there will be a guard on every train until the end of the franchise in 2026.

However, the majority of guards can see through this smoke screen. After losing control over the movement of trains how are guards to defend themselves industrially when attacked by the employer in the future? What is to stop the company scrapping guards entirely, particularly if Abellio, the franchisee, decides to walk away early from the contract as has happened elsewhere?

Conductors will be on strike every Saturday from 16 November to the end of the year.

Socialists and trade unionists should visit picket lines across the west midlands.

RMT members in the stations and engineering grades are also being balloted for strike action from 7 November over specific grades at the company being paid additional premium rates over the summer to encourage overtime working to cover gaps in the roster while everyone else was offered nothing.