Role of the Guard & Extension of DOO – South Western Railways

Our Ref: BR2/0146
20th September 2017

“Please be assured we will fully respect the democratic process of the ballot and the outcome whatever that may be.”
Andy Mellors
Managing Director
South Western Railways
15th September 2017

Dear Colleague,

Role of the Guard & Extension of DOO – South Western Railways

I understand that you have had a letter from Andy Mellors, Managing Director of South Western Railways. You will see from his quote in the box above that he will abide by your decision so make sure you Vote ‘YES’ in the coming ballot. Of course we wouldn’t have needed to even hold this ballot if he had given you the same assurance as the previous owners, Stagecoach; that there would be a Guard on every train with full safety responsibilities as you have now. Stagecoach, far from ever trying to dilute your role, made great play of the fact that there were ‘legends’ on all their trains.

It is nice that the new managing director has taken time out of his busy schedule overseeing a brand new franchise to write to you particularly about meetings in which he has taken no part.  

Mr Mellors letter is the latest attempt by the company to drive a wedge between guards, divide and rule.  Their tactic is to put worker against worker and then bulldoze through the changes they plan as part of the commitments they have given to their shareholders and the Department of Transport.

The RMT has been clear and has asked the company to guarantee a Guard on every train.  We have sought a straight answer to a straight question, this has not been forthcoming

The RMT has said we will negotiate with them over the changes of any role of the Guard but our policy is to have a Guard on every train.  We met the company on the 13th of September 2017 and if they had said then that no trains would move without a Guard or 2nd person safety critically trained on board, the RMT would not be balloting you.

The next meeting with management is on the 27th September 2017 and if they return to the table with this assurance/guarantee then I have no doubt that the National Executive Committee will consider cancelling the ballot.  

Let’s be clear. To get such a guarantee members need to vote ‘Yes’ – and as importantly use your vote. Do not rely on the assumption that others will vote ‘Yes’ and there is no need for you to bother. Give the company a clear message, that you support keeping a guard on the train.

Mr Mellors makes a number of claims in his letter:-
•    Talks were positive and productive - not correct if they had been we would not be balloting almost 800 guard members.
•    Not made a final decision on method of operation - not correct they are already saying some members will be safety critical, some will be safety trained.  What’s the difference? Well one is a guard and the other isn’t a guard.
•    The overall head count will increase during the franchise and the guards establishment will not reduce. - If that is the case why won’t the company give us the guarantee that every train will run with a safety critical guard?
If what Mr Mellor is saying is true they will have enough staff.  Notably he said headcount would increase that doesn’t mean Guards headcount would increase - he should come clean.
•    Your job and conditions are secure we have no plans to change anything - not the case you have a condition of service that says that every train shall have a guard.  This important condition dates back to 2003 they plan to get rid of that and possibly others.
•    If you work our new trains you will be safety trained - this confirms that they can run trains without the guard as to undertake train dispatch you need to be safety critical.
•    Commercial Guards will retain safety critical role - proves our point that they are not being truthful when they say they haven’t made up their mind.  Why aren’t they saying that to operate the new trains you will retain your safety critical role?
They are trying to divide and rule. Once you accept DOO for one service then the rest is history.  Who will be left to defend the Commercial guards when they decide to extend DOO?
•    42 hour week - another tactic to get you to vote no! How many times have we been around the table with promises to reduce your hours and it has never happened.
•    My commitment to work with you and RMT - we can tell you that Mr Mellors was not at the meeting on 13th September nor was he at the meeting we had with First at Unity House on the 17th August.

The Union would welcome an opportunity to meet Andy Mellors. Perhaps face to face he will give the straight answer to a straight question that we seek.

The Question and Answer letter from the company seeks to give the impression that everything will be ok whilst hiding their real intentions.  You can see everything is a plan and the questions are not really answered. This is the same stance they take in the meetings.

It is clear they do not want bad press so early on in their franchise and that is why they are not being honest with you or the RMT. We would prefer them to lay everything out so we can negotiate and tell them which parts are unacceptable to the RMT, until they do that the dispute will remain on.

Our experience of MTR elsewhere should be a warning of what is to come.
MTR took over London Overground and removed the safety critical role of the guard at the first opportunity to, they claimed, improve customer service. Six months later Guards were written to with their statutory notice and made redundant there are now no Guards on the London Overground network.  

Questions have been asked why they need to build a train without any need for a Guard. If we don’t fight now it will be too late to protect you. Lessons have been learnt elsewhere and the RMT are trying to protect your job.

Due to anti-trade union laws we will not be allowed to re-ballot you over this issue for some considerable time so the time has come to make a stand.

The RMT will be at the next talks on the 27th September 2017. At this meeting we will make it clear that if First tries to run a train without a second safety critical person on board – on  any service - we will remain in dispute with them over the matter.

By voting ‘YES’ you are giving Mr Mellors a clear message that you want to keep the guard on the train -  he has said he will respect that outcome - let’s make him keep to his word with a massive turnout and a massive ‘YES’ VOTE.
The new anti-trade union laws make it even harder than it already was to win a ballot. A massive ‘YES’ vote is not good enough unless at least 50% of you vote and at least 40% vote ‘YES’. And we are not talking about the ballot papers that are returned we are talking about the ballot papers that are sent out to ALL guard members. So please use your vote and Vote ‘YES’.

Ballot papers were despatched to your home address yesterday, Tuesday 19th September. If you have not received a ballot paper by Tuesday 26th September 2017, then please contact the RMT Freephone Helpline urgently on 0800 376 3706 or the RMT Switchboard on 020 7387 4771 and ask for the industrial relations department, where a replacement ballot paper will be sent to you by first class post. Additionally, if you are aware of a colleague who has not received their ballot paper, ask them to call one of the above numbers to update their details and to receive a replacement ballot paper.


Yours sincerely,


Mick Cash
General Secretary