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STRIKES by rail workers will cripple the services of no fewer than six train operators early in the new year as the bitter dispute over driver-only trains intensifies.
The mass action, announced by the RMT union yesterday, will hit Southern, South Western Railway, Greater Anglia, Merseyrail, Arriva Rail North and the Isle of Wight’s Island Line.
Staff at all the companies will walk out for 24 hours on January 8, 10 and 12, except for Southern workers, who will only take action on January 8.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash stressed that “every single effort” had been made by the union to reach an agreement resolving the separate disputes.
But he alleged that appeals for safe operation and staffing related to the union’s campaign to keep guards on the trains had been “kicked back in our faces” by bosses, leaving the union no option but to confirm further industrial action.
“No-one should be in any doubt — these disputes are about putting the safety of the travelling public before the profits of the private train companies,” Mr Cash insisted.
“It is frankly ludicrous that we have been able to negotiate long-term arrangements in Scotland and Wales that protect the guards and passenger safety, but we are being denied the same opportunities with rail companies in England.
“RMT is in no doubt that it is the dead hand of the minority Tory government that is interfering in these disputes and their influence is a factor in preventing the union from reaching negotiated settlements.”
Mr Cash called on the government to lift its “blockade” on talks in the separate disputes to allow the union to negotiate “freely” with the companies.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Not content with attempting to stop people getting home for Christmas, the RMT’s version of a happy new year is to continue dragging paying customers into its futile and backward-looking industrial action.”
The rail companies expressed “disappointment” at the announcement of the new strike dates.
Rail Delivery Group head Paul Plummer said: “No-one wins from RMT strike action.
“The partnership railway understands the need to change and is working together with a long-term plan to do more for customers, communities, businesses and our people.”
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