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A FRESH round of strike action against management attempts to remove safety-critical guards from trains on South Western Railway has started today.
Rail union RMT accused South Western bosses of making a mockery of negotiations and of sabotaging the union’s attempts to reach a settlement in the dispute, which began 11 months ago.
A 24-hour strike began at midnight and this will be followed by a three-day strike on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday August 31 to September 2, and a further two 24-hour strikes on September 8 and 15.
South Western, which is part-owned by Hong Kong-based MTR rail company, is attempting to abolish the jobs of safety-critical guards from trains to increase profits, despite the record of guards’ actions in safeguarding passengers during incidents such as derailments and onboard incidents.
RMT accused the company of “stringing the negotiating team along and having no intention of reaching agreement.”
The union’s general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT is angry and frustrated that the company’s cavalier and contemptuous approach to talks leaves us no option but to continue our programme of industrial action. We know that passengers will share that anger.”
He said that profits from fares had increased at South Western.
“This week SWR have benefited from a fares windfall that will pump up their profits,” he said.
“They have plenty of money to employ guards on their trains and to sign off the guard guarantee the union has achieved elsewhere.
“South Western Railway seem to think they can treat the union and their staff with utter contempt. They need to change that attitude, get serious and put a team in place that can talk with us with authority on the safety, security and access issues at the heart of this dispute.”
In Scotland and Wales rail operators have reached agreement with RMT on maintaining the jobs of guards on trains, following constructive intervention by the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament.
In England the Tory government is supporting privateer rail operators who want to get rid of guards. Government-agreed franchises guarantee that operators’ profits will be underwritten by the taxpayer even when services are not provided.
An SWR spokesman called the strikes “extremely disappointing” and said the firm would do everything it could to minimise disruption to passengers.
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