Clare Wilkins, Nottingham Socialist Party
The long-running senior conductors’ dispute on East Midlands Railway (EMR) Intercity is over. RMT members voted to accept management’s offer in a ballot on the pay and contract dispute, and on ‘multiple working’. The vote was more than two to one to accept. The terms will be implemented on 13 February, and reps will be working hard to get this done. Implementation should safeguard the grade for the future.
In the longer-running train managers’ dispute over pay cuts and detrimental contracts for new staff, and reduced staffing on trains, members voted to reject EMR’s proposals about ‘multiple working’.
Talks took place with EMR at the end of October and agreement seemed to have been reached, but management would not provide an agreement in writing. Pressure was put on EMR including threats of further strike action on Sundays. A clear form of words was received from management just before Christmas when the union called strike action for New Year’s Eve.
Both disputes were intimately linked to on-train staffing and passenger safety.
On-train staff take many formal and informal measures to keep passengers safe, sometimes at personal risk. Hearing these stories on the picket line, and seeing the commitment of the conductors and train managers to their passengers’ safety, showed the importance of supporting the RMT union and rail workers.
Over Christmas and New Year, RMT members were on strike on Cross Country Trains, to keep the guard on the train. This is the latest in a series of disputes over staffing and safety on the railways. The attacks are coming from many rail operators.
EMR is owned by Abellio, which is owned by the Dutch state. A company owned by the German state has another franchise in Britain. The European Union has instructed member states to privatise their railways. This will make matters worse.
Despite the Department for Transport taking nominal control of the railways last year, a meeting with franchise operators in October suggested that the operating companies would continue to run services.
Rail prices have just gone up by 3.1%, well below inflation (currently 7.1%). Every year passengers pay more for as deteriorating rail infrastructure, rolling stock and service.
We need to nationalise the railways under democratic workers’ and passengers’ control and management to ensure a safe and proper service.