Our Ref: BR2/0146

1st September 2017

Dear Colleague,


I write further to my previous correspondence on the above matter and where I informed you that the union had written to First MTR to try and address our concerns and to seek assurances relating to jobs, terms and conditions and the Safety Critical Role of the Guard.

As you are aware, we recently met with the company in a face-to-face meeting to discuss First MTR’s plans for when they took over the new franchise. Unfortunately, this meeting was disappointing and the company failed to give us the assurances we needed. When pressed on certain issues the company evaded the question and when asked specifically about the retention of the second safety critical member of staff on their trains they were intentionally unclear. As always, your union tried everything possible to try and inform the company that these assurances are vital to you and your colleagues and by not providing these guarantees they are leaving you and your colleagues in limbo. Furthermore and following the meeting, the company were asked to provide written guarantees that they will maintain a second person with safety critical skills on board all services for the duration of time that they will run the present franchise. I have since received a response from the company, which does not meet our aspirations and falls short of providing the cast-iron guarantees we need over the Safety Critical Role of the Guard. The company are being deliberately vague on the responsibilities of the second person on their trains, stating that they will be ‘safety trained’ which is not the same as being ‘safety critical’.

Therefore, the National Executive Committee has considered this matter and believes that the company’s response to our concerns has been disappointing. We now have no other option but to inform the company that we are now in dispute over these issues. The NEC has decided to ballot all of our South Western Railway and Island Line Guard, Commercial Guards and Driver members for Strike Action and Action Short of a Strike, in the form of an overtime ban and a rest day working ban. The need to be proactive is vital and calling a dispute is the only way to ensure the company understand that we are serious about the Safety Critical Role of the Guard.

The union will do everything possible to defend you and your colleagues and the NEC has also instructed me to produce propaganda and materials to demonstrate the union’s position and to defend the Safety Critical Role of the Guard. These will be in the form of Badges and Stickers with the ‘Save the Guard on SWR’ & ‘I Support the SWR Guards’ slogans, alongside leaflets explaining the dispute and other materials that will aid us in gaining as much support as possible in our battle to defend the Guard.

Now more than ever, it is absolutely imperative that you don’t waste your chance to vote, as the new anti-union laws threaten our ability to defend you and your colleagues in the absence of a high turnout of members in the voting period. We now have to meet minimum thresholds and are required to have a minimum of at least 50% of the number of individuals who are entitled to vote returning their voting papers. Additionally a minimum of 40% of individuals entitled to vote in the ballot have to answer ‘yes’ to both questions for any action to be lawful. Consequently, we need you and your colleagues to show your intentions clearly as failing to do so will allow the company to push through DOO and will weaken your position as a guard.

Therefore, to ensure a swift ballot, membership checks are currently underway, I urge you all to ensure your memberships details are correct in preparation for the ballot for Strike Action and Industrial action short of a strike. If your job title, address or workplace has recently changed, then please contact the RMT Freephone Helpline number on 0800 376 3706, the RMT switchboard on 0207 387 4771 or e-mail Additionally, if you know a colleague who has moved or changed jobs inform them to contact one of the above numbers where we will be able to amend their details and ensure a successful ballot.

Further meetings are planned with the company as we try to get the guarantees we need to resolve this dispute. I trust this keeps you fully advised and I will inform you of any further developments and outcomes on these issue when they arise.

I will write to you all in due course.

Yours sincerely

Mick Cash
General Secretary