Protest held outside Portsmouth railway station as union strikes continue

PROTESTERS are optimistic that a breakthrough will soon be made in a long-running train dispute.

Saturday, 14th December 2019, 3:22 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th December 2019, 2:54 pm

RMT Union has spent years fighting against proposals to reduce the number of guards on trains in the south coast, warning of a threat to public safety if they are removed.

On Saturday morning, a group gathered outside Fratton Station before marching into town.

It comes in the middle of a 27-day strike by RMT members against the proposed changes.

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Protesters outside Fratton Station. Picture: David George

Mick Tosh, regional organiser for RMT, has accused South Western Railway (SWR) of acting like ‘game show hosts’.

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He said: ‘We are always available for talks, but it has to be a two-way negotiation.

‘With their quips and sarcastic remarks towards us, SWR is behaving like a game show host instead of engaging with us, it’s laughable.’

Mick Tosh, regional organiser for RMT Union. Picture: David George

RMT fears that SWR will move to driver controlled operation for train doors, claiming the rail company is doing it to claw back a few seconds of the journey at each station.

The strike was launched due to a lack of assurance that the role of guards will be protected.

Mr Tosh explained: ‘They [SWR] believe it will give them a few extra seconds back.

‘The issue isn’t with the guards but with the bottleneck of trains towards London Waterloo - they need to improve the infrastructure to see any real improvements.

‘Instead, it’s a scapegoat to get the guards off their books in the long-term.’

As strikes roll on, some public support may have waned, RMT admits, but the union says it still has the majority of support.

Mr Tosh told The News that he ‘understands’ public frustration with the strikes, but added that he believed the support lost came from a vocal minority.

Speaking ahead of the protest, Jon Woods said: ‘We’re really pleased with the turnout because it shows how important this strike is to people.

‘It’s one of the longest-running disputes in the country and the unions are determined that the guards will win this battle.

‘They’re the ones fighting for our health and safety and should be commended for that.’