West rail link threatened by ‘assault’ ballot
The Rail Maritime and Transport Union is to ballot workers on Great Western Railway for industrial action over the sacking of a guard based at London’s Paddington station – bringing the chance of a damaging strike closer.
The union announced last week it was threatening to stop all trains in and out of Paddington over the dispute – potentially bringing misery to thousands of people from the Westcountry who use the station to get into and out of London. They have now said a ballot will be held.
The dispute is over the alleged victimisation of union activist Ben Frederick, who was suspended after an incident at Evesham Station in Worcestershire, where Mr Frederick alleges he was attacked by a passenger.
The union said although Mr Frederick was the victim he was suspended. They say CCTV footage shows a member of the public spitting at him and hitting him with a mobile phone. He was suspended on September 5 pending an investigation by GWR that he carried out the assault.
If the strike ballot goes ahead and members votes for industrial action it will create another dispute on railway services into and out of the Westcountry. South Western Railway staff are already in dispute over the removal of guards from trains.
Yesterday workers on Arriva Rail North said they were to stage seven fresh strikes on Saturdays until the end of the year in the long-running dispute over guards.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will walk out for 24 hours on November 17 and 24, and on December 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29.
The new action will take the number of strikes against the company to 43 since the bitter row over the role of guards on trains flared.
Strikes had already been announced for the next two Saturdays, leading to huge disruption to services.