Do You Support the SWR Strike?
Update: Boris Johnson has claimed that all-out strikes on public transport will be made illegal under a new Conservative administration.
South Western Railway (SWR) begin a 27-day strike, called by Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) Union because a long-running dispute over guards on trains broke down.
The union insists the strike is about passenger safety but the operator called the action "unnecessary".
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The strike come full electoral season and there have been already exchanged accusations that the action is politically motivated.
SWR si the UK’s second biggest train operator with about 600,000 passenger trips a day from Surrey, Hampshire and beyond into London Waterloo, the country’s busiest station.
New trains introduced on SWR allow for driver-only or driver-controlled operation. While the train company has pledged to retain a second crew member aboard, the RMT has sought further assurances, including changes to procedures when boarding, that would keep safety-trained guards integral to the operation, even with drivers controlling the doors.
In statement released today, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“RMT members are standing rock solid and united on South Western Railway this morning as we begin a full month of strike action in support of the safest method of train operation and despatch. This strike is solely about protecting safety and accessibility on SWR trains.
“RMT is angry and frustrated that a set of proposals that would have guaranteed the safety-critical role of the guard at the point of despatch, and which would have cost the company absolutely nothing, were kicked back in our faces last week. There is no rational explanation for the company position and we can only assume that either they or their paymasters in Government wanted this strike action to go ahead for politically motivated purposes.
In an official position, South Western Railway says:
“We have promised that we will keep a guard on every train and that our guards will have a safety critical role. Both things the RMT has been asking for, so these strikes are unnecessary.
“We will do everything possible to get you where you need to go but ask that you leave more time for your journey and check before you travel for the latest information.”
The Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) has published several research projects on various aspects of DCO on passenger trains.
It says: “None of these pieces of work has identified any increased risk from dispatching a train without a guard being present – providing the correct procedures have been followed. In fact, the removal of any possible miscommunication, which could exist between driver and guard could, potentially, deliver some safety benefits.”
When is the South Western Railway strike?
The strike is scheduled in the following days:
Monday 2 December from midnight – 11.59pm on Wednesday 11
December Friday 13 December from midnight until 11.59pm on Tuesday 24 December
Friday 27 December until 11.59pm on Wednesday 1 January 2020.
How long the SWR strike will last?
Workers will be on strike for 27 days in total. RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘At the last meeting we held with SWR principles in agreements were made in good faith with the company’s negotiating team and we now feel hugely let down again. As long as the company continues to refuse to give assurances on the future operational role of the guard we will remain in dispute.
RMT Assistant general secretary Steve Hedley underlined the commitment of the union for the SWR strike:
"Of course our members don't want to lose a month's money running up to Christmas but they're prepared to do that to show that safety and accessibility for disabled people is non-negotiable."
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