Thousands of commuters using the South Western Railway (SWR) service are to face disruption from 30 August until 2 September due to a walkout staged by members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) over the role of train guards.
The RMT has accused SWR of prioritising profits before passenger safety by eliminating guards from trains. It said that the company “continues to drag its heels and delays talks over the safety-critical role of the guard on the train,” and that it is “deliberately trying to mug off staff, who have stood firm in the fight for rail safety, by making a mockery of the talks process”.
The RMT confirmed that workers who are members of the union will be standing “rock solid and united” to support the strike for the protection of the role and responsibilities of guards and the safe operation of trains.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said members felt compelled to protest due to the company’s “unremitting failure” to rule out driver-only operation.
Cash said: “Despite all our efforts to pin down an agreement that honours promises made by SWR, and which protects the safety-critical role of the guard at the platform/train interface, the company has played fast and loose and attempted to kick this fundamental issue into the long grass.
“RMT members have not come this far in the long fight for safety on South Western Railway only to be snubbed when a deal is clearly there to be done. It is now down to the company to get serious and listen to what their own staff are saying,” said Cash.
In response to the strike, SWR said in a statement that it was “committed to finding a solution that will help us build a better railway for everyone.
“The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.
“During strike action, while services are likely to be busier than usual, we will do everything we can to keep customers moving,” it concluded.
This is hardly the first time the commuters and rail companies have witnessed a strike over this issue. The dispute has been ongoing since November 2017 and has continuously sparked much criticism from the RMT. During the strike which took place earlier in June, commuters said their journeys were a “total mess”.
Union members are also due to stage strikes on Merseyrail next month for a parallel dispute over guards on trains.