Is the RMT in­dus­trial dis­pute over?

Surrey Advertiser - - Front Page -

MEM­BERS of the RMT, Bri­tain’s big­gest rail union staged a protest out­side Lon­don Water­loo on Mon­day (Au­gust 21) over new Sur­rey rail op­er­a­tor South West­ern Rail­way’s (SWR) ‘re­fusal’ to clar­ify whether it will guar­an­tee a sec­ond mem­ber of staff on its trains.

The dis­pute has wor­ry­ing echoes of the union’s clash with South­ern Rail.

South­ern, the RMT union (largely rep­re­sent­ing train guards) and the ASLEF union (largely rep­re­sent­ing train driv­ers) were at log­ger­heads for much of 2016 and into 2017 over staffing, plung­ing the net­work into strike chaos for some 18 months.

The RMT fears driver-only op­er­a­tion (DOO) will be rolled out more widely, putting trains in all but com­plete con­trol of the driver and sac­ri­fic­ing what they de­scribe as the ‘safety crit­i­cal’ role of guards.

The ASLEF union, mean­while, has high­lighted its own DOO safety con­cerns from the per­spec­tive of its driv­ers. SWR, owned by First Group and Hong Kong-based MTR, has in­sisted there will be a sec­ond mem­ber of staff on trains.

The unions cite a South West Trains pledge that DOO would not be ex­tended – a pledge they say will carry over to SWR.

RMT gen­eral sec­re­tary Mick Cash said: “There is an agree­ment in place there will be no ex­ten­sion of driver-only op­er­a­tion on South West Trains and that agree­ment trans­fers with the un­der­tak­ing to First/MTR.

“All that RMT is seek­ing is a clear as­sur­ance that there will be no in­ter­fer­ence with the cur­rent agree­ment and that it will be hon­oured by the new fran­chise holder.

“Un­for­tu­nately in talks with First/MTR the com­pany re­fused to give a guar­an­tee that there will be a sec­ond per­son on their trains de­spite what they have been telling the press.

“They also failed to clar­ify what safety com­pe­ten­cies and role a sec­ond mem­ber of staff would have on their ser­vices. Mon­day morn­ing’s demon­stra­tion will be the kick-off point for RMT’s cam­paign to keep the guard on South West Trains.”

An SWR state­ment mean­while said: “We know a sec­ond mem­ber of staff pro­vides as­sur­ance to our pas­sen­gers on trains and en­sures we have ca­pa­ble col­leagues on board to de­liver as­sis­tance dur­ing the jour­ney for any­one that needs help or ad­vice while trav­el­ling on our trains.

“This is why we will al­ways plan to re­tain two peo­ple on our ser­vices. Dur­ing our fran­chise, we will in­crease the num­ber of driv­ers and guards so we can de­liver more ser­vices for our cus­tomers.

“We are look­ing to cre­ate a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment and mean­ing­ful ca­reer pro­gres­sion for our em­ploy­ees and we have sig­nif­i­cant plans to in­vest in learn­ing and devel­op­ment, which we are look­ing for­ward to dis­cussing with our em­ploy­ees.

“We will dis­cuss the role of our guards with our staff, and how that role can be en­hanced to pro­vide a bet­ter ser­vice to our cus­tomers.

“Our plans are to in­tro­duce brand new Bri­tish-built trains, an in­vest­ment of £895m.

“We are not com­mit­ted to any one method of train op­er­a­tion for this new fleet, to be in­tro­duced by De­cem­ber 2020, and we will fully in­volve our em­ploy­ees and trade unions in dis­cus­sions on the ini­tial de­signs of the new trains and ideas on how they best op­er­ate.

“We look for­ward to en­gag­ing with our em­ploy­ees and the trade unions in the com­ing months.”

And in with the new: South West­ern Rail­way is the new fran­chise op­er­a­tor

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