More RMT strikes on South Western Railway as talks break down…
Guards who choose to work during industrial action on South Western Railway are still being bullied and harassed, according to a source.
However, the RMT union also claims its striking members are being treated in an unacceptable way.
An indefinite ban on overtime and rest day working among guards at the Bournemouth and Weymouth depots started on July 17 ( RAIL 857). The union said the action was in response to “the victimisation of members during recent industrial action”. SWR said the action was having no impact on passengers.
The union has also announced eight days of wider strike action by guards on July 26/28/31 (after this issue of RAIL went to press), August 4/11/18/31, and September 1. That includes five Saturdays across the summer holiday period. The last strike was more than six months ago, on January 12.
SWR aimed to run at least 60% of services, with more trains at maximum length. A spokesman said: “The proposal we made is similar to that of Greater Anglia, which the RMT has recently agreed to. We have said that we will keep a guard on all our services.”
Meanwhile, the source told RAIL: “Around a dozen guards at Bournemouth and Weymouth came to work on the last strike, and are still subject to bullying.
“The action taken in striking is nothing less than political. I attended an RMT meeting where the union president stood up and said that if the RMT could get all five TOCs [train operating companies] that serve London to strike on the same day, it would go a long way to achieving the aim of a Corbyn government.”
A closed Facebook group for RMT members at Bournemouth and Weymouth claims to have “written proof” that the company wishes to extend Driver Only Operation.
In a post confirming the latest round of strike action, the guards stated: “The company have now made it clear that it’s not just DOO on new rolling stock, but old rolling stock too, if they modify it. So, if you are an outer Guard and believed you were safe, think again.”
The post added: “I know eight days is a big ask and going to have a big financial impact on everyone, and the National Executive Committee will debate a hardship payment to all members who take this action. It needed to be a big impact on the company so they get back around the table.”
A spokesman for SWR confirmed that all non-suburban rolling stock would continue to require a guard on board.
“The discussions we have had about keeping our passengers moving when a guard is unavailable at short notice relate only to the new suburban fleet,” he said.
“We continue to offer assurances that on this fleet we will also continue to roster a second person on every train.”
The spokesman confirmed there were no plans to alter Class 444, ‘450’, ‘442’ or ‘158/9’ fleets to make them capable of operation without a guard. Currently none of the rolling stock serving Bournemouth and Weymouth is fitted with driver-controlled operation of the doors.
SWR has been running inclusivity workshops for drivers, guards and station staff in the Bournemouth, Weymouth and Salisbury areas. The company describes feedback as “both positive and helpful”.
Two members of the RMT union based at Bournemouth were suspended by the company following allegations of bullying of guards who chose to work during strikes ( RAIL 857).
The union said both members were subsequently sacked. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash alleged that “the disciplinary process has been abused and the extreme punishments carried out are totally disproportionate. The only fair conclusion to this dispute is the immediate reinstatement of our colleagues to their substantive roles without delay.”
SWR responded that the disciplinary process did not relate to industrial action, but to breaches of the company’s harassment and bullying policies.
Separately, confidential minutes from discussions at the ACAS conciliation service have been leaked to RAIL. Talks broke down shortly before the announcement of the latest strike dates.
The ACAS notes state: “Employee representatives challenged why the
[Class 701] train had been ordered with no Door Open button in the Guard Operating Panel without consultation. They said this clearly was an enforced job change.
“Employee representatives said they could not accept discussions on the grounds that guards opening doors was not included.”
The minutes then refer to a management call for ideas to resolve the situation.
“Management - you have three guys here that know more than I do. You may have some great ideas that make a difference.
“RMT - you are missing the point. The idea is for you to present ideas... we have not been asked to come along here to provide you with solutions to problems you are creating.
“Management - at this point everything is confidential, we are compiling a list of ideas.
“RMT - think we need another adjournment. We’re happy to be open about what we think will and won’t fly, it’s for you to provide us with those elements, we’re not providing them for you, we’re not seeking an outcome to your conundrum.
“The meeting adjourned.”