UNIONS slammed Britain’s media barons yesterday for starting yet another anti-union campaign at the very moment that rail workers are fighting a vital battle to protect passenger safety
Conductors on Southern Rail, which serves south London and south-east England, will down tools for 48 hours today in their latest protest against the deskilling of their jobs.
The RMT walkout follows a drivers’ strike last week over the same issue of driver-only train operation, which unions fear will lead to the second member of on-board staff being stripped out altogether.
Right-wing newspapers accused unions yesterday of unleashing chaos in a bid to “topple” the Tories.
The Sunday Times quoted RMT president Sean Hoyle saying of accusations that unions were “co-ordinating” to bring down the government: “We bloody are.”
In an editorial, the paper said the power of unions should be “curtailed” and it was “time to hit the unions in their pockets.”
But union general secretary Mick Cash told BBC Radio: “We are a serious industrial trade union, we are not part of some conspiracy to bring the government down.
“We are focusing on the concerns that our members have had around safety on the railways.”
“It’s all about safety and it’s about us trying to ensure there is a guarantee of a second safety critical person on every train.”
The scrap erupted as Labour politicians clashed over the legitimacy of the strikes.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said she would not “second guess” unions.
“It is not just the trade union, it is also the problems and the incompetence of some management, and Southern Rail is an example of that,” she added.
Public accounts committee chair Meg Hillier said she supported the right to strike but unions should “really think about the impact on the people they are actually there to serve, their customers or their passengers.
“I think that there needs to be a bit of a wake-up call about the impact on hard working people who are trying to get to work, or go on holiday,” she told Sky News.
“And I think that if they are not careful they could be shooting themselves in the foot.”
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