Our Ref: BR2/0146

30th May 2019

Dear Colleague,


I am writing further to my previous correspondence on the above issue and where I previously advised you that the discussions with the company have been long winded, slow and infrequent.

As you are aware, three days of strike action was due to take place in February and March, which was called off, in good faith, by your union. We believed that calling off the action in good faith would allow the company and your union to enter into meaningful discussions. It was our initial intention to enter into these talks to discuss an agreed framework policy and to look at a method of operation of the new rolling stock. When informing the company I made it explicitly clear that – whilst we had called off the action in good faith - I would need an offer by no later than 25th May 2019. The deadline was put in place so I could place this back before the National Executive Committee for further consideration. Despite me making these demands, the company – in a letter dated 20th May 2019 – has now stated that they will provide the union with their preferred method of operation the week commencing the 17th June. South Western Railway management further explained that this method would be agreed after further Hazard and Operability (HAZOP) meetings, yet, these dates have not been provided, agreed, booked in or even discussed with your union. This would also only be the company’s preferred method and may not even be agreeable to the union or you and your colleagues and could mean even further discussions. It seems utterly appalling that the company would need 5 months to even consider their preferred method, let alone try and reach an agreement with your union. To make matters worse, the company has tried to use the introduction of the May timetable as an excuse for their incompetence and delay, but, the action was called off in February and the company have had plenty of time to come to a decision.

I have sent several letters to the company asking them to intensify talks and to arrange more dates to try and resolve this dispute. To date, the company have only managed 4 meetings with your union. This included one HAZOP meeting, which in fact was nothing more than a risk assessment and was never anywhere near a true HAZOP. Another meeting was to visit Derby to see the new rolling stock and to examine how it was being built. There is clearly no commitment from SWR to resolve this dispute and they have no appetite to discuss or find a way forward in resolving this dispute. To compare the amount of meetings we’ve had with other TOCs on DOO – where we called off action in February as well –  we have held over twenty meetings to discuss a resolution, this only highlights how abysmal SWR management are and how they clearly do not care about resolving this dispute.

In the remaining two meetings discussions centred on the company’s plans and that they intended for there to be no door release function for guards, no local door release open function for guards and the use of Automatic Braking and Door Opening (ABDO). However, it is our understanding that the way ABDO operates means it will not be in operation until at least the year 2021. Additionally during discussions the company tried to talk about other workload functions, however, the basics had yet to be agreed and we made it clear that the union’s position would be to discuss these issues when all relevant stakeholders were in the room.

Once again we proposed to the company that they adopt the model agreed on Abellio Scotrail. Which is:-

1. Guaranteed a Guard on every new electrified train. 2. Guaranteed that the Conductor will retain their full competency (rules, track safety, evacuation). 3. In addition ScotRail confirm that trains operating these services will not run without a competent conductor on board.

These arrangements transfer as per all other Collective Agreements at the end of the franchise.

This was rejected outright by South Western Railway management who stated that they wish to discuss ‘all’ methods of operation. However, as mentioned the company haven’t even put their preferred method of operation on the table for the union to consider. SWR invited us to review the trains again, but, we made it abundantly clear that we need more meetings with the company and an involvement within the risk assessment. Despite these statements and the company’s claims, it is quite apparent that SWR has ordered a train that is built with DOO at the core. Furthermore, the company has focused on how the train has been built and are unwilling to discuss any other method. I can only assume that the company are building a risk assessment to suit the needs of the trains, instead of looking at all options available to us.

We have informed the company that the union is happy to discuss new technology on SWR trains and want to work with the company to find the best way forward for both our members and their company. Sadly, SWR management are making it incredibly difficult and your negotiators finding it very frustrating that the company are just trying to bide their time in a hope that our ballot mandate will run out and that we will once again be forced to ballot you and your colleagues. We cannot and will not allow the company to idly sit by whilst we are trying to resolve this dispute in good faith, the union can no longer let the company get away with their deliberate stalling tactics

Therefore, taking everything into consideration and assessing the situation the National Executive Committee can see no other option than to call further industrial action. We have given the company ample opportunities to resolve this dispute and in good faith suspended action. The company have not met nor even given a good reason for why they have not honoured the deadline set out by your union. The NEC believes that a set of action needs to be taken and has planned for five days of strike action in June.

The NEC calls on all of our SWR Guard, Commercial Guard and Train Driver members to take industrial action by NOT BOOKING ON FOR ANY SHIFTS THAT COMMENCE BETWEEN:-

• 0001 Hours on Tuesday 18th June 2019 and 2359 hours on Saturday 22nd June 2019.

I have written to the company to express my utter disappointment that they have acted in such a dismissive and deliberately destructive way. I have advised management that the union is readily available for an intensive set of talks in the run up to these strike dates. However, we will not be calling off any dates, unless, a proposal is put forward that addresses our concerns and that the NEC feels is good enough to suspend the strike action.

You and your colleagues have been tremendous during this dispute and have time and time again delivered with every ballot. I would like to thank you all for your dedication and true determination in ensuring a Safety Critical Guard is guaranteed on the SWR network. I urge you all to continue with this magnificent support and to stand shoulder to shoulder during the upcoming action. We will win this fight and we will ensure that there is a safe and accessible railway for every passenger and staff.


Yours sincerely   Mick Cash General Secretary