As part of their campaign to keep guards on the trains, our affiliate union RMT is calling on workers at the UK’s South Western Railway to begin a five-day strike today. The action will last until Saturday night.
RMT has called the action to draw attention to the vital role of guards on trains. The South Western Railway company does not guarantee the future of on-board staff roles, and workers have been in a dispute with the company over the past two years. Many industrial actions took place during that period, and recently it seemed that progress was being made. In February 2019, RMT called off their planned walkout as there was a breakthrough in negotiations with the employer. Back then, the company seemed to agree to guarantee the presence of train crews on all trains.
Today, South Western has stepped back from this commitment and refused to guarantee its earlier promise to keep guards on trains in the future. Workers are worried that in the near future driver-controlled operations (DCOs, previously known as driver-only operations, DOOs) may be put in practice. This practice would result in worsening services for passengers, including lack of safety and security on boards of such trains and exclusion for the most vulnerable.
ETF supports RMT in this fight. It is absolutely necessary that the company takes this weeks’ actions seriously. Railway staff are taking action in order to highlight the indispensable role of guards and at the same time workers fight on behalf of all passengers in order to maintain safety for their daily commute. Drivers simply cannot be the only staff present on board trains!
ETF railway affiliates have been vocal across Europe in the past on this issue. Many European railway companies put profit before safety and driver-controlled operations are spreading. However, European railway workers stand united against this dangerous pracitice. Last October, ETF railway affiliates from 16 European countries organised a pan-European campaign to keep train crews on board of Europe’s trains.