Unions plan rally to mark two years of Southern rail strikes over train guards

A national demonstration is to be held to mark the second anniversary of the bitter disputes over the role of guards and staffing on trains.

Monday, 19th March 2018, 3:32 pm
Updated Monday, 19th March 2018, 3:35 pm
A national demonstration is to be held to mark the second anniversary of the bitter disputes over the role of guards and staffing on trains Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will stage a rally in London on April 25, two years after the row first broke out on Southern Railway.

The dispute spread across the country, and a series of strikes have now been held by RMT members at Southern, South Western Railway (SWR), Greater Anglia, Merseyrail and Arriva Rail North (Northern).

Southern services run from Portsmouth to London, and along the south coast.

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RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: ‘Our members have stood solid and united for two years in the fight for passenger safety and access on Southern Rail in Britain’s longest-running industrial dispute.

‘The sheer grit and determination of our members on Southern to put public safety before private profit over the past two years of this dispute is a credit to the trade union movement and the communities they are standing up for.

‘We are now receiving regular reports of trains running without a guard or on-board supervisor (OBS) on Southern Rail and of disabled passengers being denied support and access and the routine safety of passengers being compromised.

‘The scandal of Southern Rail, mirrored in disputes on SWR, Merseyrail, Northern and Greater Anglia, cannot be allowed to continue and these companies should get out of their bunkers and get back round the table with the union.’

The next round of industrial action over the dispute will hit SWR over the Easter weekend when RMT members will refuse to work rest days.

All the train companies insist changing the role of guards is safe, with some pressing ahead with plans to introduce new driver-controlled trains in the coming years.

Andy Bindon, human resources director at Govia Thameslink Railway, parent company of Southern, said: ‘We urge the RMT to finally bring to an end this pointless industrial action.

‘The changes they are objecting to were introduced on Southern more than a year ago, and their members have been working this way ever since, resulting in a more efficient service with more on-board staff and fewer cancelled trains.

‘Southern ran a normal service on most of its routes in the latest day of action, with 95% of trains in the strike-day timetable.

‘The RMT has staged 40 days of strikes on a mandate that is more than two years old and we have made numerous offers to them - none of which have been put to their members.’

Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail, train companies and the supply chain, said: ‘No-one wins from RMT action.

‘As part of our unified long-term plan, rail companies are working together to deliver major improvements and we want to do more for our customers, businesses and the communities we serve.

‘That’s why we’ve got to find a way through these disputes so that we can get on with the business of delivering for Britain.’