By Phil Marsh

RMT union announces summer of rail strikes between Scotland and the south coast coinciding with high traincrew sickness levels

Published: 15th June 2016

Strikes against idea of drivers opening doors spread as GTR confirms new roles’ implementation

The Rail Maritime Union (RMT) has announced two sets of industrial action which will hit Scotrail and Southern rail services.

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) which operates trains under the Southern branding condemned the latest strike action to be taken by RMT train Conductors for 21 June.

GTR has confirmed plans to implement the new on-board role from 21 August to be undertaken by guards in their revised roles which GTR say will protect all jobs and bring benefits to passengers across the Southern network.

The new role of On-Board Supervisor GTR say will protect all their Conductors’ jobs, keeping them on trains, and re-focusing their tasks to benefit passengers providing a face-to-face customer service to passengers.

On modern trains, the responsibility for closing train doors will move from the Conductor to the driver as is the existing operating practice on over 60% of the 3,200 daily trains operated on the entire GTR network.

ACAS but no proposals offered

GTR say they gave the RMT six month notice of the new role and the talks moved to ACAS the conciliation service but ended without any resolution on 13 June.

GTR say that the RMT did not make any practical proposal to amend their plans but offered a seven-point plan based on retaining the Conductor role as-is, but suggesting changes to the Revenue Protection Officer (RPO) role and potential changes to several RPO depots. GTR say that it is not prepared to favour one group of employees over any other.

GTR say that as the company has decided to impose the changes in August, “any further strikes, which just cause misery to passengers, are entirely unnecessary and that they will continue to engage directly with employees and work together to improve the experience for passengers using GTR trains.

They said:

Chief Operating Officer Dyan Crowther said:

“Despite six months of talks, the RMT gave us no practical plan to implement the new role at ACAS – instead we have this announcement of a totally unnecessary strike. We now have no option but to confirm the implementation of the new role.

“This new on-board role will keep people on trains, and re-focus their roles on assisting passengers. No-one is losing their job, and as many services will have someone on board as they do today. We know that many passengers are experiencing a poor service at the moment, that’s why we need to bring in these changes as quickly as possible.”

• Southern has also reported abnormally high levels of conductor sickness leading to cancelations – maybe linked to the troubles?

Scotrail also faces strikes and other industrial action by the RMT

The RMT union has also announced a series of strikes involving Scotrail guards in protest against the possibility of drivers releasing the central locking of doors taking this role away from guards.

The RMT announced 24-hour strikes on 21 and 23 June, 3, 10 and 17 July and a 48-hour strike for the weekend of 25 and 26 June.

ScotRail said it believed that the answer lay in talks not strikes and hopes to resolve the dispute in negotiations with the RMT who say that it was available for “serious and meaningful talks”.

In addition to the outright strikes, the RMT has announced an overtime ban as follows:

• 0001 hours and 2359 hours Wednesday 22nd June

• 0001 hours and 2359 hours Friday 24th June

• 0001 hours on Monday 27th June 2016 and 2359 hours Saturday 2nd July

• 0001 hours on Monday 11th July 2016 and 2359 hours Saturday 16th July

• 0001 hours on Monday 18th July 2016 and 2359 hours Saturday 16th July

Co-ordinated strike and work to rule

The RMT has a policy for no extension of Driver Only Operation on any route or service and for the guard to be in full operational control of the power operated doors. The RMT has made it clear that the union is totally opposed to any proposals for extending DOO, reducing or abolishing the safety role of the Conductor and reducing or abolishing the role of the Conductor in operation of the doors.

The RMT claim that instead of talking directly to the union Abellio/Scotrail have resorted to targeting individual members through social media and junk mail in a campaign of misinformation which, as last week’s ballot result shows, has backfired spectacularly.

They said:

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;

“It is extraordinary that Abellio/Scotrail continue to ignore the strength of feeling amongst their staff over the extension of DOO and that they are still trying to by-pass the normal negotiating machinery. That disgraceful and cavalier approach to jobs and safety on Scotland’s railways now leaves us with no choice but to move to a campaign of industrial action.

“Our members on Scotrail stand determined and united in this fight for jobs and safety on Scotland’s rail services. They have not been fooled by the company dirty tricks and their attempt to influence and distort a democratic, secret ballot of the staff has backfired spectacularly with 75% voting for strike action on a 75% turn out – busting through the thresholds of even the most rabid, anti-union sections of the hard right.

"The workforce also know only too well that there is a very real threat to passengers of watering down and wiping out the safety critical role of the guard on these Scotrail services. ‎That is a lethal gamble with basic rail safety.

"The union remains available for serious and meaningful talks but the ball is now firmly in Scotrail’s court."

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