To: SWR RMT Guards, Commercial Guards & Train Driver Members

Our Ref: BR2/0146

4 January 2018

Dear colleague


We have recently met with Andy Mellors, the MD for South Western Railway. You will no doubt remember Andy had previously given his word to you that he would respect your decision when we balloted to keep a guard on the train. Has Andy or company respected that decision?

At the meeting it was clear to us that First/MTR want to change the operating model so that with the advent of any new trains they can run such trains without the need for a second safety critical guard. In short, no Guards job is safe.

The company has made great emphasis on the reason why the want they want DOO is so that they can minimise disruption to the travelling public in the event that a guard is unavailable during disruption.  That is something we all strive to achieve so when asked about how much disruption was caused by the absence of a guard we previously had been informed that relates to about 3 out of the 1700 trains a day that SWR run. We have offered to sit down look at how to resolve those difficulties without the need for introducing Driver Only Operation.

Further we did point out that we have done deals with a number of companies where the same issue arising with the introduction of brand new trains and the guard remains. Surely these companies would have the same issue over potential problems during disruption but have kept the trains running with guard. So, the real concern here is that if others can run trains with guards and deal with the issue of disruption why can’t South Western Railways?

We have pointed out to the company also that Driver Only Operation is not popular with staff or the travelling public as they understand that it means a less safe, less secure and less accessible railway. In such circumstance the emphasis by the company is suspicious and perhaps relates to the company hiding behind the excuse of passenger inconvenience to justify introducing Driver Only Operation.

Your union has made our position clear - we offered yesterday to get into further negotiations and make a recommendation to our NEC to suspend action planned for next week to allow these negotiations to happen over the next few weeks on the following basis:

1.    Guarantee a Guard on every train
2.    Guards will have a level of safety critical competences to include track safety, train evacuation and consistent with the agreed safe train dispatch method under item 3
3.    Parts 1 and 2 are subject to SWR and the RMT entering to and agreeing a safe and efficient method of train operation.

I was concerned at the response from company which indicated to the union that, come what may, the SWR agenda is to introduce Driver Only Operation.

Further, the company has made reference to a letter we have received from the Secretary of State for Transport dated 14th December 2017. Your union did receive a letter and I have responded to the Secretary of State. I am also seeking a meeting with him as the contents of the letter do not necessarily tally with what was said at the meeting we held.  

As it stands, therefore, your National Executive Committee has rejected the company’s latest proposals and has instead tabled the offer as set out in points 1-3 above as a framework to allow the suspension of the strike action for next week. This offer is on the table to the company and your union remains open for talks to resolve the issues surrounding this dispute.

The strikes are on and I urge you and your colleagues to once again show your solidarity with one another and support for your union by not booking on for turns between 00.01 hours and 23.59 hours on Monday 8th, Wednesday 10th and Friday 12th January 2018.

The show of strength that you and your colleagues have shown up to now is a credit to the union movement and I have no doubt you will demonstrate this once again next week.

Yours sincerely
Mick Cash
General Secretary